Face coverings on public transport to be compulsory – with fines if people don’t comply
Wearing a face covering on public transport in England will be compulsory from 15 June, the transport secretary has announced.
He said "we need to ensure every precaution is taken" on buses, trains, aircraft and ferries as the COVID-19 lockdown is relaxed further and passenger numbers increase.
A face covering can be a scarf, piece of cloth or a mask.
At the moment, passengers are advised to wear a face covering but are not prevented from boarding transport without one.
Mr Shapps said changes would be made to the conditions of travel for trains and buses, which "will mean that you can be refused travel if you don't comply and you could be fined".
"Alongside transport operators, this will be enforced by the British Transport Police if necessary, but I expect the vast majority of people won't need to be forced into this," he added.
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The government says face coverings are "marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure".
Evidence suggests they do not protect the wearer, but may protect other people if he or she is infected with COVID-19.
According to official advice, surgical masks should be reserved for people who need them for protection while at work.
London mayor Sadiq Khan, who has been lobbying ministers to make face coverings mandatory, said the government has "finally seen sense".
He added that there is "a large body of evidence" that they can help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said it was "another example of the government being slow to act", adding: "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."
Transport unions have also been calling on Downing Street to enforce the wearing of face coverings, following the deaths of dozens of workers during the pandemic.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said the move was "long overdue".
Appearing alongside Mr Shapps at the COVID-19 briefing, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy said he expects most passengers to comply with the new rule.
"I am not expecting a huge upsurge in railway staff having to police this," he said.
"I am expecting sensible passengers to do their duty and look after themselves and others."