By Grahame Anderson

People travelling on public transport will be required to wear a face covering from Monday June15th.

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced this latest move in the fight against coronavirus at Thursday’s Downing Street Press briefing. He said passengers should wear “the kind of face covering you can easily make at home”. Surgical masks should be kept for medical uses.

He added: “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.

This, along with the “ramping up” of services on buses, trams and trains, will “keep us safe and reduce the risk of coronavirus particularly on public transport”.

Face Covering Debate

There has of course been an ongoing debate as to whether masks or face coverings offer sufficient protection from the virus. But as the economy picks up with the opening of more retail shops and as more individuals go back to both school and work, the numbers of people travelling will rapidly increase. This includes buses, trains, planes and ferries.

Government Advice

Mr Shapps explained people should:

  • Continue working from home if they can do so
  • Avoid public transport if they can’t work from home
  • Avoid the rush hour if they have to take public transport

Some passengers will be exempt from the new rules – these are:

  • Young children
  • Disabled people
  • Those with breathing difficulties

Maintaining social distancing and hand washing, he added, remain the “most critical things to do”.

Sage Research

Sage advice suggested face coverings “offer some, albeit limited protection” against the spread of the virus.

Research suggests face coverings do not protect the wearer, but could reduce the likelihood the wearer will pass on infection.

Labour Concern

Jim McMahon MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, commenting on the news that face covering will be compulsory on public transport, said: “This is just another example of the Government being slow to act. Two months ago, Labour immediately backed the Mayor of London’s call for face coverings on public transport to be compulsory. Yet only now Tory Ministers are acting.

Two months after first raising this with Government we are still yet to hear whether drivers will be issued with gloves, masks, and other PPE items as standard, what specification this PPE should be and, if there isn’t sufficient PPE, whether buses should still run.

We can’t go on like this. We need a comprehensive transport plan to get our public transport moving, to protect staff and to protect passengers.”