SEOUL, May 25 (Korea Bizwire) — South Koreans will be required to wear masks on all flights and public transportation from this week as the country seeks to stem further spread of the new coronavirus, the transport ministry said Monday.
All passengers using public transportation such as buses, taxis and subways are required to wear masks from Tuesday, with air travelers on domestic and international routes required to follow the face-covering mandate from Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
The move comes as more people are inclined to disregard the government’s mask wearing recommendations amid rising temperatures.
“Bus and taxi drivers, as well as subway and train staff, can refuse to carry passengers who do not wear a face mask or cover. The passengers will be rejected but won’t be penalized for not following the rule,” a ministry official said over the phone.
The drivers and staff will be temporarily exempt from any penalties due to their refusal to carry passengers without masks, the official said.
Among airlines, Korean Air Lines Co., the country’s biggest and national flag carrier, became the first Korean carrier to adopt the rules requiring masks to be worn on domestic routes to stem the spread of COVID-19 pandemic since last Monday.
Korean Air said it will also have passengers on international flights begin wearing masks Wednesday in line with the government guidance.
Other local carriers, such as Asiana Airlines Inc., the second biggest and another full-service carrier, and seven low-cost carriers, said they will follow the guidance.
The seven budget carriers are Jeju Air Co., Jin Air Co., Air Busan Co., Air Seoul Inc., Eastar Jet, T’way and Fly Gangwon.
Early this month, the International Air Transport Association, which represents global airlines, recommended the mandatory wearing of masks or face coverings on flights to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Korean Air plans to resume flights on 19 international routes next month as it strives to offset a sharp decline in passenger travel demand with an increased demand for cargo deliveries.
The resumption is aimed at preparing for increased travel demand after countries ease their entry restrictions on incoming passengers to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said.
Its reopening routes include Washington, D.C., Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto, Frankfurt, Singapore, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur.
Asiana Airlines plans to restart flight services on 13 international routes — one to Seattle and 12 to Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai — June 1, while increasing the number of flights on six other routes to cities that include Frankfurt, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
The decision is aimed at meeting business travel demand though leisure travel demand has yet to recover amid the virus fears, the company said.
Local airlines have suspended most of their flights on international routes since late March following country lockdowns and entry restrictions.