Brazil's National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) Wednesday approved the return effective Nov. 25 of the mandatory use of face masks in airplanes and airports in a move to reduce the risk of COVID-19 contagion after a significant increase in the number of cases in recent weeks.
Anvisa approved the measure after a meeting with dignitaries from the Brazilian Society of Infectology, the National Council of Health Secretaries, the National Council of Municipal Health Secretaries, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), and the Brazilian Association of Collective Health, in addition to epidemiologists Carla Domingues and Wanderson Oliveira.
The meeting participants emphasized that the epidemiological data demand the return of non-pharmacological protection measures, such as the use of masks, especially in public transportation, airports, and closed/confined environments, Anvisa explained in a statement.
The wearing of masks had been recommended since last August, especially for people with flu symptoms and those most vulnerable, such as immunocompromised patients, pregnant women, and the elderly.
In addition to current epidemiological data, the behavior with characteristics of pandemic seasonality was also considered by Anvisa.
In recent years, it was observed in Brazil the increase of virus transmission in the months of November to January, a situation that can be further aggravated with the expected greater flow of travelers who go through airports for school vacations and year-end festivities, Anvisa argued.
The agency insisted that once again it was within its legal powers and adapting the current rules in a manner proportional to the risk to the population's health. Anvisa also pledged to remain attentive, evaluating and monitoring the epidemiological data, so that the measures can be revisited whenever necessary, aiming to fulfill its mission in protecting people's health.
As of November 25th, the use of face masks will be mandatory inside airport terminals, means of transportation, and other establishments located in the airport area.
However, only masks meeting sanitary standards will be approved, it was explained. Masks must be adjusted to the face, covering the nose, chin, and mouth, minimizing spaces that allow the entry or exit of air and respiratory droplets.
The obligation to wear masks will be waived in the case of people with autistic spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, sensory disabilities, or any other disabilities that prevent them from making proper use of a face mask, as well as in the case of children under three years old.
Pursuant to Anvisa's May 13 decision, in-flight services remain available for domestic travel, for which passengers will be allowed to remove their masks for hydration and meals, as well as in food courts or areas intended exclusively for meals in terminals and other airport environments.
The regulations also apply to ground vehicles carrying passengers.
(Source: Agencia Brasil)