Covid UK: Now Ryanair drops mask wearing on planes


British holidaymakers will not be required to wear masks on Ryanair flights by Spring, the airline’s boss has predicted.

Michael O’Leary said he would like to see the end of face coverings on planes by the end of April, and declared Gatwick Airport would see a ‘strong recovery’ following a tough two years during the Covid pandemic.

It comes as Jet2 became the first UK airline to drop the requirement for travellers to wear masks onboard their planes.  

As the travel industry recovers from repeated lockdowns to battle the spread of the virus, Ryanair has revealed its largest summer schedule from its three London airports – Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. The low-budget airline has also announced 14 new routes from the airports to destinations including Naples, Madeira and Stockholm.

Boris Johnson last week ditched all Covid regulations, with masks no longer legally compulsory on public transport anywhere in England. However, most airlines still insist on them as a ‘condition of carriage’, making them the last bastions of mandatory face coverings. 

‘We are pleased to announce 14 new routes from our three London airports, Stansted, Luton and Gatwick,’ O’Leary said. 

‘As all Covid-19 travel restrictions have now been lifted, UK citizens and visitors can book a well-deserved summer getaway to exciting destinations such as Helsinki, Madeira and Naples.

A flight attendant wearing a mask and gloves inside a Sichuan Airlines plane, June 16, 2020

A flight attendant wearing a mask and gloves inside a Sichuan Airlines plane, June 16, 2020

British holidaymakers will not be required to wear masks on Ryanair flights by Spring, the airline¿s boss has predicted (stock image)

British holidaymakers will not be required to wear masks on Ryanair flights by Spring, the airline’s boss has predicted (stock image)

Michael O¿Leary said he would like to see the end of masks on planes by the end of April

Michael O’Leary said he would like to see the end of masks on planes by the end of April

Airline Jet2 has become the first major British carrier to scrap the requirement for passengers to wear face masks on its flights

So, what WAS the point? Cloth masks allow 90% of particles to filter through giving them little ability to prevent COVID transmission, study finds 

Researchers found that cloth masks only block an estimated 10 percent of all particles from getting through. Because cloth masks are made of tightly woven yarn (top) unlike surgical and other kind of masks that are made to filter particles (bottom) they are not as protective against Covid

Researchers found that cloth masks only block an estimated 10 percent of all particles from getting through. Because cloth masks are made of tightly woven yarn (top) unlike surgical and other kind of masks that are made to filter particles (bottom) they are not as protective against Covid

Cloth masks do little to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or other airborne diseases, a new study finds.

Researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom found that 90 percent of particles could get through cloth masks, making them effectively useless during the pandemic.

Cloth masks have been popular in the U.S., as they are easily reusable after washing and at some points were the most accessible due to shortages and high prices for surgical or N95 masks.

Now, though, experts have discovered that these masks were doing little if anything to actually stop the spread of the virus, and likely contributed to spread as people who believed they were acting safely were not doing so.

Researchers, who published their findings Tuesday in Physics of Fluids, built an airflow simulation using 3d imaging to gauge how well different masks used during the pandemic filtered particles.

They note that unlike N95 or surgical masks, cloth masks are not built using material made to filter out particles.

Cloth masks are made out of tightly woven fabrics. While not visible to the eye, small gaps in the fabric are enough to allow for a vast majority of particles to get through.

‘Ryanair is driving London’s post-Covid recovery as we grow across Europe, with new aircraft and new routes.’

A Jet2 spokesman said: ‘It is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face mask in England and Northern Ireland, including at our airports or on board our aircraft.

‘However, as per UK Government guidance, we recommend that customers continue to wear a face mask in these spaces, and we remind customers that they will need to wear one when they get to their overseas destination.’

Jet2 passengers aged six and over will still have to wear masks on flights travelling from Scotland and Wales.

The airline operates only within Europe, which potentially makes it easier for it to drop mandatory masks than for long-haul carriers travelling to continents where the Covid picture is more uncertain.

However, EasyJet, which also only operates across Europe, Ryanair, British Airways (BA), Virgin Atlantic, domestic airline Loganair and tour operator TUI all said masks would remain mandatory.

A BA spokesman said it plans to keep its mask policy ‘to protect travellers, avoid customer confusion and ensure everybody is prepared for their journey’.

The UK’s Omicron outbreak may no longer be receding as quickly as it was, official data revealed on Tuesday.

Another 39,000 positive cases and 194 Covid fatalities have been recorded across Britain, dropping just five per cent on last week.

And the number of infected people admitted to hospital each day is flattening out, with 1,015 admissions logged on Friday – just 2.6 per cent fewer than seven days earlier.

It coincides with the rise of the even more transmissible Omicron subvariant BA.2, which health chiefs say is now dominant. Experts told MailOnline cases are likely still falling across the UK but warned they ‘may not be for much longer’ now that BA.2’s share of infections is continuing to rise.

However, scientists have insisted there is no reason to panic. The strain is behind nearly all cases in Denmark but has had no impact on Covid hospitalisation and death rates.

Plummeting testing numbers, which have dropped by a fifth in a week, also make it difficult to decipher the true infection rate.

Government scientists told MPs that No10 did not ask for any modelling on how the end of all legal Covid curbs in the country would impact infection rates – but warned it was ‘inevitable’ that cases would trend upwards. 

It comes as a new study suggests that cloth masks do little to prevent the spread of Covid-19 or other airborne diseases.

Researchers from the University of Bristol found that 90 percent of particles could get through cloth masks, making them effectively useless during the pandemic.

Cloth masks have been popular in the US, as they are easily reusable after washing and at some points were the most accessible due to shortages and high prices for surgical or N95 masks.

Now, though, experts have discovered that these masks were doing little if anything to actually stop the spread of the virus, and likely contributed to spread as people who believed they were acting safely were not doing so.

Researchers, who published their findings on Tuesday in Physics of Fluids, built an airflow simulation using 3d imaging to gauge how well different masks used during the pandemic filtered particles.

They note that unlike N95 or surgical masks, cloth masks are not built using material made to filter out particles.

Cloth masks are made out of tightly woven fabrics. While not visible to the eye, small gaps in the fabric are enough to allow for a vast majority of particles to get through.

‘Masks are air filters, and woven fabrics, such as cotton, make for good jeans, shirts, and other apparel, but they are lousy air filters,’ Richard Sear, co-author of the study and physicist at Surrey University, said. 

Two women wearing masks in Leeds, England, February 9, 2022

Two women wearing masks in Leeds, England, February 9, 2022

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows 39,000 Britons tested positive, down 5.2 per cent on the 41,130 cases detected last Tuesday

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows 39,000 Britons tested positive, down 5.2 per cent on the 41,130 cases detected last Tuesday

Lockdowns, school closures and limiting gatherings only reduced COVID mortality by 0.2% at ‘enormous economic and social costs’, study finds 

A graph comparing curbs with deaths

A graph comparing curbs with deaths 

The original coronavirus lockdowns had ‘little to no’ effect on pandemic death tolls in the US, UK and Europe, a controversial report suggests.

Economists who carried out a meta-analysis found draconian restrictions imposed in spring 2020 — including stay-at-home orders, compulsory masks and social distancing — only reduced Covid mortality by 0.2 per cent.

They warned that lockdowns caused ‘enormous economic and social costs’ and concluded they were ‘ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument’ going forward.

The review, led by a Johns Hopkins University professor, argued that border closures had virtually zero effect on Covid mortality, reducing deaths by just 0.1 per cent.

However, closing nonessential shops was found to be the most effective intervention, leading to a 10.6 per cent drop in virus fatalities.

Their report, which has not been peer-reviewed, said that this was probably due to shutting pubs and restaurants where alcohol is consumed. School closures were linked to a smaller 4.4 per cent decrease.

The researchers — who deal in the field of economics, rather than medicine or public health — originally identified 18,590 global studies into lockdowns, which they claim had to be whittled down to just 24 to answer their research question.

Critics have accused them of ‘cherry-picking’ studies to suit their narrative and have raised doubts about the biases of its authors, who have been vocal about lockdowns and vaccine mandates on social media.

Most scientists believe that, before the arrival of vaccines and antivirals, lockdowns had a significant effect on cutting transmission and therefore reducing the number of hospital admissions and deaths caused by Covid.

KN95 masks are built to filter out particles, and have a standard filtration of 95 percent.

‘The filtering layer of an N95 mask is made from much smaller, 5-micrometer fibers with gaps that are 10 times smaller, making it much better for filtering nasty particles from the air, such as those containing virus,’ Sear said.

KF-94 masks are considered to be very effective as well, with the ability to filter out 94 percent of particles.

Filtration efficiency is not the only two benefits of those masks, though. Fit is very important as well.

A mark should fit tightly around a person’s face, almost hugging their nose, cheeks and chin. This is to avoid leaving gaps above or below the mouth and the nose where air can escape.

Even if a person does have a mask that can filter up to 95 percent of particles, if the mask isn’t well fitting then the particles could just escape out of the side anyways. This is why Sear also does not recommend the use of surgical masks.

‘Surgical masks fit badly, so a lot of air goes unfiltered past the edges of the mask by the cheeks and nose,’ he said.

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows 39,000 Britons tested positive, down 5.2 per cent on the 41,130 cases detected last Tuesday.

The vast majority of the cases, 26,711, were registered in England, while 2,225 were logged in Wales and 2,567 were detected in Northern Ireland. Another 2,567 people tested positive in Scotland.

The true scale of infections is hard to interpret, experts warn.

Some 643,136 Covid test results were logged yesterday, compared to more than 2million at the height of the Omicron wave.

But the positivity rate in England – the proportion of Covid tests that turn out to be positive – increased to 10.9 per cent last Tuesday, the latest date figures are available for, compared to 10.4 per cent one week earlier.

Meanwhile, 1,015 infected people were admitted to hospitals across the UK on Friday. The figure is just 2.6 per cent lower than the week earlier.

And 10,551 Covid-infected people were in hospitals across the UK by 8am on Sunday, down 6.8 per cent in a week.

Another 194 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were registered, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 161,630.

Vaccination data shows 91.5 per cent of over-12s in the UK have now had at least one Covid vaccine, while 85.2 per cent are double-jabbed and 66.5 per cent are boosted.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia (UEA), told MailOnline it is challenging to interpret daily infection data because the proportion of cases being picked up through testing is dropping.

Comparing daily case data with estimates from the Office for National Statistics on the true infection rate, Covid tests picked up 45 per cent of infections in early January, Prof Hunter said. But this dropped to 25 per cent by the second week of February, he noted.

‘Although infection numbers are probably still falling, BA.2 infections were still increasing at least a week ago – when the latest Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium data is available,’ he said.

‘So overall I think cases are still probably falling but maybe not for much longer now that BA.2 is dominant and probably still increasing.

‘However, I doubt BA.2 could continue to increase for much longer. It is already increasing much more slowly than a few weeks ago.’

The UKHSA revealed BA.2 was behind 52 per cent of all cases in the seven days up to February 20. The sub-variant has completed its rapid rise to dominance just a month after it was first spotted in the UK.

BA.2 carries many of the same mutations as Omicron, alongside many new ones that make it more transmissible.

But, unlike its parent, it carries a specific genetic quirk that means it can be easily distinguished from the original Omicron without the need for genomic sequencing. UKHSA scientists use this to estimate BA.2’s prevalence.

Professor Matt Keeling, a SAGE member and a modeller at Warwick University, warned MPs that while the virus appears to be under control, ‘there is room for things to get much worse’.

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