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Virgin to ‘encourage use’ of masks in major policy shift

written by Adam Thorn | July 31, 2020
NEW RUNWAY @ BNE OPENS - VH-YFW - 1272020 737800 (Craig Murray)
A Virgin Australia 737-800 becomes the first commercial flight out of Brisbane Airport’s new runway, VH-YFW on 12/7/2020 (Craig Murray)

Virgin Australia has announced it will now actively encourage passengers to wear masks nationwide and will hand them out prior to boarding.

Previously, the airline’s policy, still active on 27 July, was to simply make them available on request, along with hand sanitiser.

Customers flying to and from Melbourne have been required to wear face coverings since 23 July in line with local restrictions there.

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The business’ medical officer, Dr Sara Souter, said, “While cabin air on board is well circulated through hospital grade filtration systems every few minutes and the risk of in-flight transmission of COVID-19 remains low here in Australia, the use of masks is being recommended or required in line with government advice for flights to or from areas of increased concern.

“From tonight [Thursday], customers travelling from New South Wales will be provided face masks prior to boarding and recommended to wear them throughout the duration of the flight and upon disembarkation.”

The airline, from June, also switched to contactless check-in, sequenced boarding and distributing health questionnaires. Virgin’s new policy reflects that of Qantas, which now recommends the wearing of masks.

Of the three biggest airlines in Australia, Rex has the most stringent mask regulations, with passengers required to wear a mask or otherwise face being denied boarding.

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Masks are not distributed for free so customers must bring their own or purchase one.

Passengers must wear masks at Rex check-in counters (or worn immediately after purchasing from a check-in counter), at boarding gates, during tarmac transfer both at boarding and disembarkation (including during bus transfers), and while on-board the aircraft.

On Thursday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that from midnight on Sunday face coverings would be mandatory for regional Victorians.

Coverings have already been required in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire for the past week.

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