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An Air Canada 787-9 in Los Angeles (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ben Suskind)

Transport Canada Mandates Use of Face Masks for Airline Passengers

As some countries in Europe and North America prepare to release travel restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities are starting to put in place protocols to protect the health of air passengers and airline staff.

Transport Canada, the country’s aviation regulator, issued new measures that will come into effect at 12 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on April 20.

When traveling by air, all travelers will be asked to cover their mouth and nose at Canadian airport screening checkpoints. The rule will apply when it is not possible to physically distance themselves from others or when directed to do so by airline staff, public health officials or a public health order.

Passengers on all flights departing from or arriving at Canadian airports will also be required to demonstrate they have the necessary face cover during the boarding process. Failure to do so may result in the passenger being unable to continue their trip to Canada.

According to the Canadian Public Health Service, a suitable non-medical mask or face covering should be made of at least two layers of tightly-woven material fabric such as cotton or linen, be large enough to comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping and maintain its shape after washing and drying.

Some passengers are exempted from the requirement, such as children under the age of two, anyone who is unable to remove their face covering without assistance or anyone with trouble breathing.

A ban on non-essential international travel is now in effect in Canada, with only two carriers. Air Canada and WestJet are currently operating skeleton domestic services with limited international connections.

Air Canada said in a statement that it will provide N95 masks, single-use gowns and gloves to cabin crew, who will be equipped with sterile wipes and sanitizers.

The Canadian flag carrier will make adjustments to its onboard service. On flights within North America, bottled water is replacing the traditional beverage service and food is no longer being served. On long-haul flights only bottled water will be served and all meals will be pre-packaged.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees commended the decision by Transport Canada but is pushing for more protections to be available to flight attendants, the CBC said on its website.

“It’s a step forward, but it is not enough to protect airline workers from contamination,” union spokesman Philippe Gagnon said. The union is requesting for full personal protection equipment to be made available to cabin crew, together with the legal right to refuse to work if the gear is not provided.

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