Face coverings made mandatory on all UK public transport

LONDON, UK - Face coverings will be mandatory for Brits travelling on public transport as of Monday. The regulation will apply to all passengers on buses, coaches, trams, ferries, and trains. The British government continues to advise people to avoid taking public transport where possible, but when they do, they must wear a face covering from hereon.

Over 3,000 extra staff from British Transport Police, Network Rail, Train Operating Companies and Transport for London will be deployed from Monday at key transport hubs and interchanges across England to assist, reassure, and advise people to ensure they follow social distancing guidance. They will also support existing staff by helping to manage congestion. Hundreds of thousands of face coverings will be handed out to passengers at many locations across the rail network in England from Monday.

The one-off initiative, which will run for several days at a number of stations, will see coverings provided free of charge. Under the changes, operators will be able to stop passengers who refuse to follow the rules from travelling and direct them to leave services. The police and Transport for London authorised personnel will also be able to issue fixed penalty notices of GBP100, or GBP50 if paid in 14 days.

Exemptions for the use of face coverings will apply to those with certain health conditions, disabled people and children under the age of 11. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

"We've seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has unlocked a community spirit right across our nation, and we now need to extend this to our transport network so we can help keep one another safe. If you do need to travel, in the same way that you would pick up your phone, wallet or keys when you leave the house, please remember to bring a face covering.

Our fantastic transport staff will be on hand to provide help and advice, and free coverings will be given out at key train stations to help kick-start this initiative. This is another small, sensible step we can all take to help us defeat this virus."

The change from Monday will coincide with the easing of certain lockdown measures, including the reopening of non-essential retail stores. While the government says social distancing and hand washing remain by far the most important disease prevention measures, when necessary to use public transport, people may be more likely to be in enclosed spaces for longer periods of time where there is a greater risk of the spread of the virus, and social distancing is likely to be difficult to follow consistently.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has set out that using face coverings as a precautionary measure in this setting can provide some additional protection to fellow passengers and can help people to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus if they have it, but are not showing symptoms. The government has been engaging with local authorities and operators ahead of Monday's change. Face coverings are not the same as face masks.

It is important that people do not use medical grade PPE masks to ensure these remain available for frontline staff, the government says. Last month, the government set out advice for people on how to make their own face coverings easily at home, using scarves or other textile items. To help support the country's economic recovery the government says it is also exploring new technologies to fast-track greener air travel.

GBP500,000 in advanced funding will continue the development of a first-of-a-kind biofuels plant in Immingham, North East Lincolnshire, which will help to decarbonise both aviation and road freight by converting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste into sustainable fuel each year. And, in a ground-breaking partnership between government and the aviation industry, a new "Jet Zero" Council will work to help make the aviation and aerospace sectors environmentally fit for the future. Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said:

"It's an excellent initiative and the Transport Secretary should be applauded for demonstrating such a willingness to work with the aviation industry to achieve our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

There are huge opportunities for the UK to be a world-leader in sustainable aviation fuels production and electric aviation, creating thousands of high-skilled jobs and major export opportunities in the process.

It's a win-win for all of our regions who will stand to gain from this and for the UK's decarbonisation efforts, and we're looking forward to taking part."

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