Face coverings must be worn on London’s buses, trains, Tube and trams, despite lockdown restrictions easing on Monday, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, announced overnight.
Mayor Khan has made “the right decision”, according to Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones.
London is the first English city to insist on face coverings after covid restrictions ease.
The Mayor said he was not prepared to put Tube, bus and other transport users at risk by relaxing the rules on face coverings.
Face masks have been mandatory on public transport for the past year to reduce the spread of the virus. But those rules will be replaced with government guidance advising passengers to wear masks only on busy services.
While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he expects masks to be worn in crowded places, such as on busy Tube trains, their use will no longer be compulsory.
This kind of confused and mixed messaging by the government has been roundly criticised by medical professions and opposition politicians, who say that it creates doubts and uncertainty among the public, and an unfair burden on front-line transport workers who have to work, and police, the environment it creates.
“It has been concerning to see such unclear and mixed messaging from ministers over whether face masks should be worn on public transport after July 19,” London Assembly Member Elly Baker said.
“It’s good to see the Mayor and TfL cutting through this confusion and showing leadership on this issue.
“It’s so important that transport workers are protected and that all Londoners can use Tube, bus and rail services with the confidence that all the possible measures are being taken to keep them safe.
“As the Delta variant continues to surge, the Government should do the right thing and make wearing face masks on public transport a legal requirement.”
And the Mayor’s announcement also attracted approval from Caroline Pidgeon, the senior Liberal Democrat at the London Assembly. “This is a welcome decision… The continued wearing of masks is a small price we should pay if we want to protect ourselves and fellow Londoners on public transport.
“It would be utter nonsense to immediately abandon this public health measure as the number of covid infections rises so steeply.”
The rules on face masks elsewhere in Britain are stricter than those allowed in England by Johnson’s government.
In Scotland, the mandatory use of face coverings will remain in place for “some time”. The rules for masks apply in shops and public transport – as well as pubs and restaurants when not seated.
In Wales, face masks will continue to be required by law in some settings. The Welsh government has said face coverings in Wales would still be mandatory on public transport and in health and social care settings.
Mayor Khan has now made face masks a condition of carriage for the Tube, bus, tram, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail, continuing beyond July 19.
This means that, despite the easing of restrictions on July19, it will be listed as a condition in a legal agreement between TfL and its customers.
“We know from the government’s own advisors and from the World Health Organization that wearing a face-covering indoors does reduce transmissions. It leads to greater public safety and greater public confidence as well.
“As long as the virus is still with us, and as long as we’re still concerned about the virus being transmitted, we will make it compulsory.”
Khan said he is “confident” that there will be high levels of the rules being followed. TfL has 400 enforcement officers, who will deny those without a face covering from using London transport.
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