Travelers must wear masks regardless of the rules

The flight to Singapore has made it compulsory to wear face masks for passengers aged six and over. Although many airlines around the world have dropped the rule, including those operating Australian domestic flights, Singapore Airlines still requires masks during flight, in accordance with Singapore’s strict regulations.

But even with a warrant, some people don’t understand. The man who sat in the seat next to me wore a loose-fitting cloth mask that fell immediately below his chin. As we took off, he fell asleep, exhaling particles heavily through his nose and mouth. I was wearing a tight-fitting KN95 mask, but I knew there was more risk if the passenger next to me was not wearing one, despite the airline’s high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters.

I was just starting a long trip and didn’t want to spend it in quarantine. I hesitated before politely asking him to remove it, as I didn’t want to be that person. He did it immediately. But the mask fell back under his chin after a while and stayed there for the entire flight.

I did not catch COVID-19. But friends flying from Stockholm to Paris next to an unmasked person who was coughing and sneezing certainly did.

I’m amazed that I’m still writing about mask-wearing at this point in the pandemic. For travelers, a well-fitting mask is a nuisance but it’s still a major line of defense, after vaccinations and booster shots. This mask could be the difference between a good trip and a trip ruined by a costly and inconvenient illness. The one that snowballs past you and the person next to you to other more vulnerable people.

Even now, where masks are mandatory, such as on public transport, few are wearing them, with little increase now that BA.5 is rampant. How something so practical became a hot topic even for governments is one of the craziest aspects of the world we live in, one for the history books – if we have a history.

I am someone who still wears my mask in the supermarket. I have had all available vaccines. I probably won’t get dangerously ill if I catch it, which seems almost inevitable these days. And even if my mask sometimes itches me a little after several hours of wearing it, I got used to it. I find that a black mask disturbs my peripheral vision less; that the tighter the fit, the less my glasses fog up.

Looking around on an airplane, I notice that many people opt for lighter surgical masks or a cotton fabric mask as they are more comfortable. Both are less than 25% effective, according to many recent studies. The lack of clear messages from the government on this is a big problem.

We don’t really have much control over who sits next to us during the flight, but if we both have properly fitting masks, the chances of catching anything, including a cold, are high. thinner.

As a traveler, I want to be armed with the best information possible. A new large-scale study of several thousand Australian healthcare workers reported in the American Journal of Infection Control demonstrated conclusively that well-fitting (no gaps) FFRs (disposable particulate filtering respirators) are extremely effective. Technically, the masks protect against particles with a size of approximately 0.3 microns. Although the coronavirus is around 0.1 microns in size, it is usually attached to larger droplets.

The trial showed that the 3M1806S had the highest protection rate for men and the 3M1860 had the highest success rate for women and smaller face types.

N95 respirators are the American gold standard, while KN95 and P2 meet European, Chinese and Australian standards. All have multiple layers of synthetic fabric. The hard cap style with two straps that go around the head is best, but probably too uncomfortable for a long flight. The flat fold is good, and the duckbill type is considered the least efficient of them.

Even with mask mandates lifted in most countries and on most airlines, smart travelers should consider a good mask as much part of their travel kit as their passports. It’s not just planes, but taxis, airport gates, but wherever masses of people gather.

Until there is a more effective vaccine to control new variants and people are willing to get vaccinated in large numbers, without masks, we are doomed to staff shortages, interrupted vacations and a disease cycle for a very long time.

lee.tulloch@traveller.com.au

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