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HEALTH

Coronavirus: Germany blocks truck full of protective masks headed for Switzerland

German customs authorities have blocked the export of a truck filled with 240,000 protective masks to Switzerland, which Swiss authorities have said is part of a broader export ban on protective gear.

Coronavirus: Germany blocks truck full of protective masks headed for Switzerland
Photo: AFP

Switzerland has called for an emergency meeting with the German ambassador about the issue. As reported by the NZZ,  State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) on Sunday called upon “German authorities to release the blocked masks immediately”. 

The situation is particularly severe for Switzerland as the country produces very little protective gear. 

SECO said a truck with 240,000 masks on board was commandeered before it left German soil by customs authorities. SECO added that the interception does not appear to be an isolated incident, with all further transports likely to be blocked. 

German government on Wednesday banned the export of medical protective equipment such as goggles, respiratory masks, protective suits and gloves. France has made a similar order. 

READ ALSO: Germany bans exports of gloves and masks over coronavirus

Hospitals and nursing homes are concerned about the supply of masks in coming weeks, as the stock is already below optimal levels. 

In a press conference on Sunday, the Head of Communicable Diseases Division at the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health said the country has a reserve of two different types of masks, some of which have been distributed to health centres already. 

On the diplomatic dispute with Germany regarding the import of masks, Koch said simply “We are trying to buy masks and protection material.”

Avoiding 'mask hysteria'

Health officials have frequently told the general public that healthy people should not wear masks and to refrain from purchasing them as they make it more difficult for sick people and medical professionals to access them. 

According to the WHO, around 80 percent of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment.

Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Some 3.4 percent of cases are fatal, according to the latest WHO figures. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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