US trade attacks extension of mask mandate for transportation

The US travel trade has repeated calls for Covid travel restrictions to be abolished after Washington extended a federal mask mandate for transportation by two weeks.

The requirements, which had been due to expire on April 18, will be in place until May 3.

The extension of the ruling, which requires passengers to wear masks on aircraft, trains and transit hubs, follows an increase in cases of Covid-19.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the extension was prompted by a rise in cases and to “give it time to assess the potential impact of the rise of [Covid] cases.”

The US Transportation Security Administration said: “Since early April 2022, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of Covid-19 cases in the United States.

“During the 15-day extension period, CDC will assess the potential impact the recent rise of Covid-19 cases has on severe disease, including hospitalisations, deaths, and healthcare system capacity.

“TSA will continue to co-ordinate closely with CDC and communicate any changes to this requirement with the public.

US Travel Association public affairs and policy executive vice president Tori Emerson Barnes said: “Travellers and the travel industry need to hear firm plans to navigate the endemic environment in which the public and practically all other industries are now operating, particularly as the CDC no longer recommends masks for the overwhelming majority of the US population.

“With all of the tools now available to mitigate the virus, it is time for the administration to set a clear end date for federal requirements on mask usage as well as pre-departure testing for air travellers to the US.”

Aviation trade body Airlines for America wrote to the head of the health authority urging an end to the mask mandate and pre-departure testing for international travellers to the US – reiterating a call made to Washington regulators last month.

“It is very difficult to understand why masks are still required on airplanes but not needed in crowded bars and restaurants; in packed sports arenas; in schools full of children; or at large indoor political gatherings,” the letter said. “Simply put, an extension of the mask mandate does not make sense.”

Airlines for America also insisted that it is “no longer logical” to keep pre-departure Covid testing in place for inbound airline passengers to the US.

The American Society of Travel Advisors praised a push by a bipartisan group of 16 members of Congress earlier this week to exempt vaccinated passengers from the US CDC’s inbound testing order.

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