Dutch PM confirms full flights allowed, face masks mandatory at airports
The Dutch Cabinet has no plans to restrict the number of people or the percentage of empty seats required inside airplanes as part of its package of social distancing measures meant to handle the Covid-19 pandemic. The Cabinet will follow the advice of public health agency RIVM and make face masks a requirement for anyone at Dutch airports or on planes where Dutch law has jurisdiction, the government said in a statement.
When asked about full planes at his weekly press conference, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he personally would have no problem flying in a full aircraft. He said the rate of air exchange has been researched extensively at that the risk of spreading a Covid-19 infection is very small.
"In the past, investigations have also been carried out into someone who once had Ebola and even vomited on an airplane that did not infect anyone. So the risks are really limited," Rutte said. "We have said, on the advice of the RIVM, that we still have to wear a mask. You just have to do that, because you are on that plane for a long time sometimes three, four hours."
He said it was up to airlines to ensure that noncompliant passengers are dealt with, including the possibility of blacklisting passengers. To further keep infection rates down, passengers will only be allowed at Dutch airports if they have no symptoms and completed a declaration about their health condition. The RIVM also stressed in a letter to the Cabinet on Friday that contact between passengers and crew must be strictly limited.
Face masks are set to become a requirement for all travellers at Dutch airports, the government said. In line with advice from the RIVM, the changes will mandate that all passengers wear at least a non-medical face masks while on board flights, as well as while at check-in, security, and waiting at departure gates at Dutch airports.
The government said it was likely impossible to keep a physical distance of 1.5 meters between people on airplanes in part because of the highly regulated and stringent safety rules governing aircraft. However those rules will still apply at the airports.
Given that most major airlines, including KLM, already require passengers to wear masks while on board, the new guidelines are not expected to bring about substantial changes to the way in which flights already operate in the wake of the pandemic.