UAE doctors advise residents to ‘mask up’ when flying as holiday travel picks up

Covid cases are on the decline but other viruses like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) also impact people’s health



by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Fri 9 Dec 2022, 3:27 PM

Masks are no more mandatory, but the recommendation comes with an intention to protect society against viruses like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

The UAE doctors are advising passengers to mask up especially while transiting through airports and while seated in an aircraft.

With schools closing down today a lot of residents will be travelling in large numbers through international airports during the holiday season.

Dr Mitchelle Lolly, Specialist Pulmonologist with Prime Hospital Algarhoud Airport road Dubai says, “Passengers in the flight should wear masks as there is minimal social distancing in the flights. Moreover, it is a closed space with prolonged duration of closeness among the passengers. Try not to spend over 10 to 15 minutes eating when in a group and on flights as people are off masks (in that period).”

Covid cases are on the decline but other viruses like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) also impact people’s health.

She adds, “Based on our current experience, we have seen a sharp rise in influenza after masks regulations were relaxed. With events like the Fifa World Cup and festival of Christmas and the New Year around the corner, a lot of gatherings, parties, fan zones will be present which will predispose individuals to viral infections both Covid and non-Covid, leading to a sharp rise in infections. These infections along with a secondary bacterial infection could lead to pneumonia and bronchitis especially in elderly and children below two years of age causing a threat to health.”

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Doctors urge that those who are ill should not attend these gatherings to protect themselves and others.

Dr Alaa Zedan, Specialist, Internal Medicine, Burjeel Hospital, Dubai says, “Wearing masks on flights is no longer mandatory. Many people have become complacent about wearing masks because it isn’t compulsory anymore and as Covid-19 cases are declining. However, it’s better to take precautions, especially in closed spaces like airplanes. It is flu season."

"Research says that wearing a mask has a synergistic effect, meaning masks can reduce the transmission of respiratory illness from one individual to another. Wearing a mask while travelling can limit the spread of such illnesses to the vulnerable sections of society, including those with existing diseases, the elderly or people with complex diseases or co-morbid conditions.”

“While community masking can reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses, it’s the responsibility of each individual not to spread the disease to another. Try to avoid travel if you’re suffering from any respiratory illnesses,” adds Zedan.

Healthcare professionals emphasize for all to practice hand hygiene and proper cough and cold etiquette to the maximum extent possible.

Dr Raiza Hameed, Specialist Pulmonology, Aster Clinic, Bur Dubai, says, “During air travel, one sits in a closed environment for a few hours with many other people and there are high chances to contract respiratory infections."

"So, it is ideal that we wear face masks to keep these infections at bay. Wear a mask properly during travel and carry a hand sanitizer/disinfectant wipe. Masks should cover the person’s nose and mouth. Consciously, avoid touching things. It’s good to maintain social distance and avoid removing the mask inside the flight. Additionally, a quick scrub of the seat and armrest is not a bad idea. Most importantly, one must make sure they are properly vaccinated.”


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