Starting on 15 June, passengers on public transport in England will be required to wear face coverings, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced. This will coincide with the next round of easing of restrictions.
The primary aim in England is still for people to avoid travel or public transport if possible; however, those who have to use public transport will now be required to cover their faces. Transport usage has been increasingly slowly. Ridership on the London Underground is up by 20 percent compared to the preceding week for example.
“People should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible. But, as restrictions are carefully eased when it is safe to do so, it’s likely that we will see more people needing to use public transport.”
On public transport it can be unavoidable to be in close proximity to another person for a prolonged period of time. It is these conditions that increase the risk of transmission. According to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), face coverings can provide a small amount of extra protection, especially in light of the fact that many people who contract the coronavirus remain symptom-free but are still contagious.
To make this requirement legally binding, the government will include it in the National Rail Conditions of Travel legislation. This will allow operators to refuse travel or issue a penalty fine to those who fail to comply. The British Transport Police will also assist in implementing the measure.
The government is also working with operators to make sure staff are provided with face coverings where appropriate, it says.
The government also emphasises that social distancing and hand washing remain by far the most important measures. Anyone wearing a face covering should wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before putting the mask on and after taking it off. They should also avoid touching the mask while wearing it to avoid mask-to-mouth contamination.
“Wearing face coverings on trains will help to ensure that those who need to travel by rail can do so with confidence. Greater use of face coverings will boost the other measures we are putting in place to keep people safe, like more thorough cleaning, improved information on potential crowding and one-way systems at busier stations.”
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