WTTC backs making face masks mandatory to tackle Covid19

by | 28 Jul 2020 | General News

The influential World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has urged all travellers to wear face masks to protect themselves and others from coronavirus, including those working in the hospitality sector.

In news that may come as a relief to many hotel workers, the WTTC has joined growing calls for face masks to be made mandatory to reduce Covid19 transmission rates and help bring the outbreak under control. We find out more about this high-profile announcement.

Evidence-based recommendations

Over recent months, scientists have been collecting evidence that suggests the countries which are recovering more quickly and avoiding second waves are those where the use of masks has been widely enforced and encouraged.

Now, following guidance from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, the WTTC is advising travellers to don masks on all forms of transport throughout their journeys, as well as in interior venues or those where restricted movement leads them to come into contact with others at a distance of two metres or less. The organisation is also asking governments around the world to enforce the wearing of masks and asking private businesses to remind customers of the importance of protecting their health and that of fellow travellers.

This advice follows the publication of the WTTC’s Safe & Seamless Travel guidelines, which highlights the value of frequent handwashing, contact tracing and testing to make travel as safe as possible while a vaccine is being developed.

Ramon Sánchez, principal investigator and research associate at Harvard University, TH Chan School of Public Health, said: “Wearing face masks has been proven to provide the highest level of protection against transmission at 82%. Constant hand hygiene and surface cleaning, which kills more than 90% of viruses that are found on surfaces, also prevents the virus from reaching the face from the hands.

“The public should keep a two-metre distance whenever they can, however, if that simply isn’t possible, people should increase the ventilation around them. Inside buildings, this can be done by opening doors and windows which decreases the viral concentration by more than 70%.

“Mechanical ventilation, such as air conditioning decreases it by 80% while going outdoors proves more effective by decreasing the viral concentration between 90% and 95%.”

Encouraging travellers to wear masks

To reach an audience beyond the professional realm, the WTTC has created the hashtag #wear2care, encouraging travellers to share photos of themselves donning masks on their trips to show they care and inspiring others to do the same.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and chief executive officer, said: “The safety and hygiene of travellers and those who work in travel and tourism is of paramount importance, which is why we now strongly recommend masks being mandatory. ‘Wear to care’ promotes the protection of face-mask users and visibly shows they care about the welfare and safety of their fellow travellers, which will help save lives and encourage the return of safe travels.

“The wearing of masks should not be politicised. Wearing a mask needs to become part of everyday life to ensure everyone enjoys travelling in safety until a vaccine for Covid19 is found. We implore the private sector and global governments to encourage their use so wearing a mask becomes the new normal.”