Masks to remain compulsory on London transport and will be enforced, warns mayor

Sadiq Khan has warned commuters and tourists that “hundreds” of Transport for London (TfL) enforcement officers will continue to impose the wearing of face masks on services in the capital beyond 19 July – and those caught breaking the rule will be thrown off trains, tubes and buses.

The mayor of London said he was also exploring making this a by-law – which would require the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police to enforce the measure too.

Image: Sadiq Khan has asked TfL to make mask wearing a ‘condition of carriage’ after 19 July

He said TfL was arguably one of the “safest and cleanest” transport authorities in the world, but maintaining mandatory mask-wearing offered “an additional layer of protection and reassurance” where people cannot often maintain social distancing.

Mr Khan pointed to evidence from the government’s own scientific advisers and the World Health Organization (WHO) which he said showed wearing a face covering reduced virus transmission in indoor settings, while new research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested it may also reduce the chances of mask-wearers catching COVID-19.

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COVID-19: Reaction to change in mask rules

“It is the most unselfish thing you can do,” he told Sky News.

“We have got hundreds of TfL enforcement officers – they will be there to make sure people are following the rules.

“But if you come to a station or you want to get on a bus and you haven’t got a face covering, you may not be allowed on without a face covering unless you are exempt.

“If you get on one of our trains, tubes, buses, Docklands Light Railway, overground trains, TfL rail, and you are seen not to have a face mask and you’ve not got a good reason, you aren’t exempt, you’ll be asked to leave.”

From Monday in England the legal requirement for mask-wearing will be dropped, but Mr Khan said the coronavirus rule will remain in force on public transport in and around the capital.

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Labour backs mandatory mask wearing

He said from the evidence he had seen Londoners and those visiting the city “have done the right thing… making the right choice to wear a face mask without the need for enforcement to take place”.

“But if there is a need for greater enforcement, a need for more TfL enforcement officers, we’ll look into that, and at the same time we are exploring making this a by-law which means we could use both the police service in London but also British Transport Police,” he added.

The transport secretary has said the government expected – and wanted – different companies and travel networks to adopt their own COVID rules on masks after 19 July.

Grant Shapps told Sky News there was no issue with rules differing in various places, and that he had expected TfL, “which tends to have crowded commuter trains” to keep the requirement as a condition of travel.

“On the other hand, if you are on a long distance train and you are the only person in a carriage, it’s late in the evening or something, there is clearly no real point in wearing a mask,” he said.

“We don’t want to say you are breaking the law by not wearing a mask in a situation where there is absolutely no advantage in wearing that mask.

“If the conditions of carriage to get on that bus are you must have a mask on then of course you must wear a mask. It is pretty straight forward.”

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“Whilst we are going from this being a legal requirement to guidelines, we do expect individual carriers to make sure they are putting in place whatever is appropriate for their network,” he added.

“The airlines have already said that you will need to carry on wearing masks on those. It is very much in line with what we expected – indeed wanted – to happen.”

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COVID-19: Shops worried about mask conflict

Speaking about services outside of London, Katy Taylor, chief customer officer at the Go Ahead transport group, told Sky’s Ian King Live the operator was not going to make masks mandatory on its bus and rail services.

She said: “If they [the government] deem that [not wearing masks is] appropriate, we will absolutely follow that, but we’re not going to insist upon it [wearing masks] for our own customers outside of government advice.”

Face masks will remain mandatory in Scotland from next week when restrictions are eased, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said, while the position in Wales is expected to be outlined later on Wednesday by First Minister Mark Drakeford.

Sky’s political correspondent Tamara Cohen said there is a degree of confusion about what people can and cannot do after legal restrictions to wear a mask are lifted in England.

She said: “So if you are getting the Underground you have to wear your mask, and then you might go to Euston Station to get a mainline train where you don’t have to wear your mask, although it’s encouraged if it’s busy. So you are going to have to keep a handle on the different rules in different places.

“Many shops are still unclear as to whether they can say ‘you don’t have to wear a mask’ as well.

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Scotland diverges from England on face masks

“I think a lot of people would say ‘why don’t they keep them compulsory because that would make things simpler’, but the government’s feeling was they didn’t want to stick with these rigid rules on masks.

“But certainly, the impression you get from some Conservative MPs is that while they don’t like it, the public seem to support wearing masks, that’s what the polls suggest, and this maybe somewhere where there might have to be a U-turn further down the line.”