For the first time since 2019, the run-up to Christmas is not overshadowed by the grim prospect of the government trying to cancel it. Covid restrictions – unless you live in China – are a thing of the past.
But there is one pandemic relic that clings: masks. Yes, most countries have ditched mandates, letting citizens decide whether to wear one or not, but with sniffle season on, there are whispers that mask rules could return – while some cruise lines have already reintroduced them.
So what are the chances that you will need to pack a face covering for your winter vacation?
Wearing a mask remains optional across the country, with the exception of some health facilities, although French authorities are urging people using public transport to wear one. This includes ski lifts.
However, only a minority take their advice into account. “On a recent visit to Tignes, there were no masks in sight on the slopes – the ski resorts appear to be free of pandemic protocols,” said Telegraph Travel’s Lucy Aspden. “During the journey, our taxi driver did not ask us to cover our faces, and the flights were also mask-free. It was business as usual. »
Rob Stewart, who recently visited Val Thorens, estimated that 5% of skiers wore them on the lifts.
A few European countries have retained mask rules, including Germany. A medical-grade mask, such as an FFP-2, is still legally required on public transport, although two states have now scrapped this rule: Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt. Compliance is very high according to recent visitors.
There has been talk of some regions also reintroducing them to retail outlets, with Berlin and Brandenburg considering a return in October, but so far no action has been taken.
If you’re heading to the Canary Islands or southern Spain this winter in search of warmth, pack a mask: face coverings remain compulsory for anyone over the age of six on all public transport throughout the country. This includes flights to Spanish airports (but not the airports themselves), although enforcement is likely to be mixed, particularly if you’re flying a UK airline.
Despite criticism from airline Iberia, which said the directive ‘affects tourism’ and ‘makes no sense’ – before adding: ‘We are the only country with China and one or two others that has this rule again” – a recent report suggests that the Spanish government’s health experts have agreed not to review its mask policy until March 2023.
For a ski holiday free of any sign of Covid paraphernalia, Switzerland might be your best bet. All mask rules were dropped, and there was no desire to bring them back.
Mike MacEacheran, a recent visitor, said: “Want a totally normal experience on the ski slopes? It’s yours in Switzerland. Last week I was in the Jungfrau region, slaloming the slopes below the mighty Eiger north face, and it was business as usual: dizzying views, freshly dusted slopes, mountain trains crowded, chairlifts and restaurants, and not a mask in sight.
Curiously, while Austria scrapped its mask rules this summer, the capital Vienna continues to require an FFP-2 or similar to be worn on public transport. A recent visitor, Gemma Knight of Telegraph Travel, reported full compliance.
Masks remain optional in the rest of the country – including at its ski resorts.
Having hesitated to get rid of masks on public transport, Italy ended up repealing this rule at the end of September.
Mary Novakovich, who recently went skiing in the Alta Badia region, said: “No masks were required anywhere, including on the ski lifts, although a few workers in restaurants and people on the streets in were still wearing. Beyond that, and a few old signs that have yet to be removed, you wouldn’t have known there was a pandemic at all.
The Greeks dropped their mask mandates in May, but face coverings remain a notable part of life.
Heidi Fuller-Love, a resident of Crete, explained: “Although the government has not – yet – reintroduced masks, in recent weeks, when the media is constantly talking about an increase in cases, I have seen more and more mask wearers in supermarkets and enclosed spaces but also on the street.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FCDO), wearing a mask remains compulsory “in health establishments, pharmacies and on all public transport for anyone aged 12 and over. Failure to comply with the restrictions may result in a penalty of €300 [£261] Well.”
In a deeply polarized America, a face mask isn’t just something you wear in hopes of avoiding disease — it’s a powerful symbol declaring your political allegiance.
Subsequently, in majority Democratic states like New York and California, mask-wearing is still widespread — though not mandatory (despite publications like the New York Times frequently beating the drum for them to become so), while that in Republican strongholds like Texas and Florida those sporting a face covering may seem a little conspicuous.
Also note that the US is one of the few countries that still requires all arrivals to show proof of Covid vaccination (at least two doses).
Despite calls from the medical establishment for the return of mask rules, they remain optional in all Australian states. Leave Australian soil on a cruise ship, however, and face coverings may be required.
Following a Covid outbreak on its Majestic Princess ship last month, Carnival Corporation – parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, Princess, Cunard, Holland America Line, Seabourn and P&O Cruises – reinstated mask rules on all of its ships sailing in the region. They are now mandatory in indoor public spaces (on board and during shore excursions), when boarding and disembarking, as well as on buses and river shuttles.
Brazil is a popular vacation destination that has backtracked on masking. After lifting all mask rules in April, he reinstated them last month – but only on planes and at airports. At the height of the pandemic, Brazilian airlines were even barred from serving food – for fear that passengers would spend too much time unmasked – but there are no plans yet to reinstate regulations to that effect.
Also note that Brazil requires arrivals who have not received the Covid vaccine to present proof of a recent negative test or a certificate of recovery (the same rule applies in Colombia’s South American neighbors and Chile).
Head east and mask-wearing remains prevalent. Although they are not compulsory, they are worn by the majority of Japanese people, indoors and outdoors. South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore still require them in some or all indoor environments, including on public transport.
In addition, a number of Asian countries, including the Philippines and Indonesia, still impose restrictions on arrivals of unvaccinated people.
With the exception of the Australian crossings mentioned above, hard and fast mask rules have been dropped – although most lines still recommend their use in certain situations.
However, the majority of cruise lines are still barring adult passengers who haven’t had two (or, more likely, three) Covid bites.