Face masks will be compulsory for all passengers and front line staff on public transport from June 15 – two months after the mayor of London called for them to be made mandatory.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said people who do not wear a face mask could be fined or denied access to public transport when the requirement comes into force next month.
“It is condition of travel,” Shapps told today’s Downing Street press briefing. “You cannot travel unless you are wearing a face covering, [in England, from June 15].”
‘Govt has finally seen sense’ – Khan
Sadiq Khan was calling for face masks to be compulsory on London transport in April – two months before the new rules will apply – when he said the “evidence around the world is that this is effective,” and added: “I want us to do that sooner rather than later.”
Today London’s mayor said he was “pleased” the lobbying had “paid off and the government has finally seen sense” to make it mandatory for people to wear face coverings on all public transport.
“This is something I and others have been calling on ministers to do for some time, and is in line with a large body of evidence that they can help stop the spread of coronavirus,” said Khan.
Face coverings can be home made
People with breathing difficulties, very young children and disable people will be exempt from the new regulations that give British Transport Police powers to fine passengers who do not comply.
“I very much hope we won’t be in that situation,” said Shapps, stressing that face coverings can be home made and do not need to be surgical masks, “which we must keep for clinical settings.”
Passenger numbers are expected to increase significantly on June 15 in line with the next round of lockdown easing measures which will see the reopening of non-essential retail outlets and return of some secondary school pupils to education.
‘Another example of govt being slow to act’
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said the rule on face coverings should have been introduced much earlier and called today’s (Thursday) announcement “just another example of the government being slow to act.”
McMahon said that Labour immediately backed Khan’s call for face coverings two months ago, “yet only now Tory ministers are acting.”
He said the government has not clarified whether bus drivers will be issued with PPE and if they are not, whether buses should run.
“We can’t go on like this,” said McMahon. “We need a comprehensive transport plan to get our public transport moving, to protect staff and to protect passengers.
To wear or not wear masks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said her government already recommends people wear face coverings on public transport and in shops – advice her administration is considering making mandatory.
The Welsh government do not have any recommendations regarding face coverings but the Northern Ireland Executive has told people to consider wearing masks in situations where social distancing is difficult to observe.
The official number of deaths of people from coronavirus rose by 176 in the last 24 hours to 39,904.