Airlines are asking travellers exempt from wearing face masks to present medical certificates from their GP.
Under current Covid-19 rules, face masks are mandatory on public transport including airplanes, and inside hubs such as airports, unless an underlying medical condition prevents the wearer from using one.
The BMA said GPs should not be required to write notes, according to the Government’s advice on face mask exemptions on public transport, which state medical notes are not legally required.
But the Department of Transport told Pulse that airlines ‘have the right’ to implement their own measures, since the Government has only released ‘guidance’.
Ryanair‘s travel policy says: ‘If you suffer from a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a face mask you are exempted from the face mask obligation on provision of a medical certificate attesting your condition’.
EasyJet goes even further and is asking patients who cannot wear a mask to obtain a medical note to declare they are ‘fit to fly’.
Its policy states: ‘If you are unable to wear a face mask for medical reasons you will be exempt from doing so as long as you have a medical exemption letter from a doctor stating that you cannot wear a face mask (which must be available on request for airport staff and crew to see) and also that you are fit to fly’.
Others airlines, including British Airways and Jet2, do not require medical notes from exempt passengers.
Writing in the most recent BMA GP Committee bulletin, chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘We are aware of some airlines asking for letters from GPs for mask exemption. However, this is not required as per the Government advice on exemption cards…’
Dr Kamal Sidhu, a GP partner in County Durham, told Pulse: ‘The whole face mask exemption issue has been chaos. In some cases, patients have quite sensibly directed airlines or their employers to Government guidance, but a GP letter for some reason appears to be treated as a panacea by all with no regard to the strain on the system.
‘We are often left in tricky situations of having to take undue risks outside our professional and contractual remit or leaving the patient unhappy. This has to stop.’
The BMA previously called for face coverings to be mandatory in all indoor spaces when distancing rules were relaxed.
Pulse voluntary donation scheme
Since the outbreak of this pandemic, Pulse has strived to support you, whether it be through our resources page, our ‘Clinical Crises’ series, holding policymakers to account with exclusives such as practices being supplied with faulty masks, or GPs being told to stop routine services in the hardest hit areas.
However, good journalism cannot be done on the cheap and, like the whole publishing industry, we have been affected by the economic slowdown. We also strongly believe the content we produce should remain free as we feel it is essential for you. Because of this, we have set up a voluntary donation scheme. There is no compulsion whatsoever to donate. But if you feel we are helping you, and you would like to support us, anything you can spare would be greatly appreciated. Read more here.