The government has announced that it is making the wearing facemasks on public transport mandatory from Monday 15th June.
Although wearing facemasks in crowded areas is already recommended, from Monday 15th June, anyone who turns up at a train station, or tries to get on a bus, or other public transport will be turned away until they come back suitably masked.
Facemasks help to slightly reduce the wearer’s chance of catching an infection, but the main benefit is that it also makes it much harder for the wearer to pass an infection to other people. The COVID virus seems to be spread more easily thanks to being infectious in people who show no symptoms, so asking everyone to wear a facemask is thought to help significantly reduce the spread of the virus.
The science is still debated, but the principle is clear, and after much prodding, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps has decided to err on the side of caution and make them mandatory.
From Monday 15th June, wearing coverings will be “a condition of travel”, and refusal to wear one, or removing it while on board could lead to being fined.
The Transport Secretary confirmed that they will be making changed to the National Rail Conditions of Travel and the Public Service Vehicle Regulations for buses to allow staff to stop unmasked people from using public transport.
There will be exceptions to the rule for very young children, disabled people and those with breathing difficulties – although how that will be applied is to be confirmed.
Grant Shapps said that the timing of the change to require mandatory facemasks is aligned with an expected easing of the lockdown conditions, which could see more people travelling by public transport.
The Mayor of London has already confirmed that they expect face masks to cover both nose and mouth — which seems obvious, but people do often manage to leave their noses uncovered at times.