Qantas, Jetstar to 'soon' dump mask requirement on some international flights

The announcement comes after the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee's recommendation to remove mask mandates for airports.

The tails of several Qantas planes.

The Qantas Group says it will "soon" update its mask policy for some international flights. Source: AAP, AP / Mark Baker

Face masks will soon no longer be required on some international Qantas and Jetstar flights, with the airlines set to update their policies to align with rules at overseas destinations.

The Qantas Group, which also owns Jetstar, said in a statement on Tuesday that it "intends to soon update" its onboard mask policy.

The move would mean that passengers would not be required to wear face masks on flights to destinations where they are not mandatory, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe.

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"We’ll continue to make masks available on board all our flights and appreciate that some customers may wish to continue wearing them for the duration of their journey regardless of the international rules that apply," the Qantas Group said in a statement.
It comes after the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee's recommendation to remove mask mandates for airports, with travellers no longer required to wear one in terminals from midnight on Friday.

In a statement, the federal government said the committee didn't consider the mandate for terminals "proportionate" following relaxed mask-wearing rules in all states and territories.

"The government notes the AHPPC has strongly recommended Australians continue to wear masks as a key measure to help minimise the spread of COVID-19 and influenza," the statement reads.

"Masks help us protect the most vulnerable in our community who are unable to get vaccinated and people who have a higher risk of developing severe illness."

Novavax vaccine approved as COVID-19 booster

Novavax has been approved as a COVID-19 booster for people aged 18 and above.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Novavax announced the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) had granted provisional registration for the vaccine as a third jab.

The became available as a booster last week.

"As COVID-19 continues to persist and evolve, we are pleased to be able to offer the first protein-based COVID-19 vaccine registered for use as both a primary series and now booster regardless of previous vaccine history," Novavax chief executive Stanley Erck said.

The approval was based on data including from a phase two trial held in Australia, and another in South Africa.
A healthcare worker administering a COVID-19 vaccine into a woman's arm.
Novavax has been approved as a COVID-19 booster for people aged 18 and above. Source: AAP
Results showed a third dose of the Novavax jab produced "increased immune responses comparable to or exceeding levels associated with protection".

The vaccine "induced a robust antibody response" when used as a booster shot.

The TGA granted provisional registration in January for use of Novavax in people aged 18 and over.

In March, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended Novavax be used as a booster for over-18s where an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer is not suitable.

The company in May filed for registration of their vaccine to be administered to teenagers aged between 12 and 17.
It comes as experts from the Sydney Institute for Infectious Diseases (SIID) at the University of Sydney call for a national health protection strategy.

Institute co-director Ben Marais said one of Labor's election promises was to establish an Australian Centre for Disease Control.

The COVID-19 pandemic had shown Australia lacked a national mechanism to efficiently collate disease surveillance data, coordinate responses and conduct rapid applied research to inform policy and guide decision making.

"A national health protection strategy for all Australians is increasingly urgent," Professor Marais said in a statement on Tuesday.

He said careful consideration and consultation were needed to establish the organisation, which needs to be a leader in preventing, preparing for and responding to disease outbreaks.

Professor Marais also said the national organisation needed to bring together the collective expertise of researchers, epidemiologists, public health microbiologists and practitioners as well as communications, infection prevention and control experts and policymakers.

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Published 14 June 2022 at 8:43pm, updated 15 June 2022 at 5:25pm
Source: AAP, SBS