EU removes face mask mandate recommendation for air travel

Update will come into effect from next week, but individual states decide whether to follow it

A group of Irish travelers arrive at the Reus airport terminal on April 12, 2022 (by Eloi Tost / Núria Torres)
A group of Irish travelers arrive at the Reus airport terminal on April 12, 2022 (by Eloi Tost / Núria Torres) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 11, 2022 05:40 PM

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) are no longer recommending the mandatory use of face masks on plans and at airports to its member states.

In the latest update to the protocol, both agencies highlight the decision as a "first step" to relax the measures imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the obligation to wear a mask coming to an end on May 16, they point out that masks are "one of the best ways of preventing transmission" of the virus and do recommend that it continue to be used by vulnerable passengers.

The ECDC and EASA have claimed that the choice to lift the recommendation on the mandatory use of masks is due to high vaccination in the European Union, as well as naturally acquired immunity.

The rules for travel to Catalonia

Although the EU may recommend Covid-related entry requirements for its member states, it is ultimately up to the individual countries that determine their own.

In April 2022, Spain updated its rules, meaning non-EU nationals can now enter using a recovery certificate, as well as a vaccination certificate.

A representative from Spain's Ministry of Health told Catalan News that "it is now based on an individual approach, and not depending on the country of origin".

As such, all passengers arriving by air (except those in international transit and children under 12), regardless of the country of origin, must have one of the following two documents:

an EU Digital Covid Certificate (or equivalent certificate recognized by the EU). This can be in the form of a vaccination certificate, negative test certificate or recovery certificate. You can check if your certificate is valid on the Spain Travel Health website or SpTH app. A full list of the third (non-EU) countries whose certificates are recognized by the EU as equivalent to the EU Digital Covid Certificate is available here.

a Spain Travel Health QR code. Anyone who does not have an EU Digital Covid Certificate (or equivalent certificate recognized by the EU) must enter the details of their vaccination, recovery or diagnostic test certificate via the Spain Travel Health website or SpTH app in order to generate a SpTH QR code.

Additional entry requirements for non-EU nationals

It is important to note that there are additional entry requirements for third-country nationals (those from the outside the EU).

Spain's health ministry says third-country nationals will be subject to "denial of entry, for reasons of public order or public health," unless they belong to one of several categories.

One of those categories is "persons with a recovery or vaccination certificate". A negative test certificate is not accepted, except for children between 12 and 18. Children under 12 do not need to provide a certificate of any kind.

In other words, non-EU nationals entering Spain will generally either have to show proof of vaccination or recovery.

A negative test certificate is acceptable for the following groups: EU residents; long-term visa holders; health professionals; transport, marine and aeronautical personnel traveling as part of their work; diplomatic and military personnel traveling as part of their duties; students traveling for study; highly qualified workers, including participants in high-level sports events taking place in Spain; duly accredited imperative family reasons; reasons of force majeure.

Residents of the following countries can also provide a negative test certificate: Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Kuwait, New Zealand, Peru, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Accepted tests and vaccines

Vaccines must be authorized by the European Medicines Agency or World Health Organization. Certificates with vaccines not authorized by these agencies are also acceptable, but the last dose administered must be of one of the authorized vaccines.

Vaccination certificates must show that no more than 270 days have passed since the administration of the last dose. After that, certificates must show the administration of a booster dose.

Where a negative diagnostic test result is used, it must be performed within 24 hours of departure in the case of rapid antigen tests (RATs), or 72 hours of departure for PCRs.

Recovery certificates issued at least 11 days after the first positive test, and up to a maximum of 180 days after the date of sampling, are accepted as valid. The accepted RATs are those authorized by the European Commission and must have been performed by healthcare professionals.