The Government reintroduced the compulsory wearing of face coverings on public transport and in shops in an attempt to halt the spread of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant in the UK.
Transport for London (TfL) are taking the opportunity to make sure its customers are aware of the changes and that they must wear face coverings for the duration of their journey unless exempt, or risk getting a fine.
Earlier in the year, the Government removed the national requirement to wear a face-covering on public transport. However, TfL maintained its mandatory stance on wearing a face covering on their network but had limited powers to enforce the rules.
The new compulsory rules mean that customers must wear a face covering which covers both their nose and mouth for their full journey and includes all transport services, in stations and on platforms, unless exempt from wearing a face covering.
In addition to this, face-coverings should be worn by everybody in a taxi or private hire vehicle for the entire journey.
Exemptions include those who have trouble breathing, children and anybody who finds it difficult to manage face coverings in a correct manner.
TfL has 500 uniformed enforcement officers alongside TfL’s police partners and will be out and about throughout the network, making sure that customers stick to the government’s regulations.
Those that do not comply can be refused entry or instructed to leave the network or face a fine. The changes introduced by the Government mean that officers will once again be able to give penalty notice fines of up to £200 to anyone who refuses to follow the rules.
Customers are also reminded that it is essential to treat everybody on the network with respect, compassion and understanding, remembering that not all customers or staff members will be able to wear a face-covering due to medical reasons or other permitted reasons that may not be obvious.
Scientific advice suggests that whilst face coverings are unlikely to stop a person from catching coronavirus, they are helpful in preventing an infected person from infecting others and help towards controlling the virus.
In a bid to get behind the reintroduction of the national regulations, TfL will be giving out face coverings at pivotal locations throughout the capital for a short period, to help Londoners get behind the new ruling and help towards keeping each other safe.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“Evidence shows that mask-wearing is the single most effective public health measure at tackling Covid. I welcome the Government’s announcement that face coverings are now compulsory in shops and on public transport nationwide, as they already are across the TfL network. This is a measure I have long been calling for.
“Provided with proper enforcement powers, TfL will now be able to work with policing partners and really boost compliance on the network, with the selfish few who refuse to wear a face covering facing a penalty fine, rather than just being denied entry to transport services. TfL enforcement officers will continue to monitor compliance across the network to keep passengers and staff as safe as possible.”
Siwan Hayward, Director of Compliance, Policing, Operations and Security at TfL, said: “Throughout the pandemic the vast majority of people have been doing the right thing and keeping each other safe from the virus, for which we’re very grateful. The Government has now issued a regulation which means all customers must wear face coverings on public transport unless they are exempt as part of the ongoing fight against Covid.”
“Our enforcement officers and our Police partners will enforce this requirement, including denying entry to our services and, with additional powers as a result of the Government’s regulation, issuing a financial penalty to those who refuse to comply. We will continue to monitor compliance across the network and will take action as necessary to ensure that our customers and staff remain safe on our network.”
TfL wants to assure its customers that they are doing their utmost to support passengers in travelling safely and confidently on its services. Tube trains and stations continue to be cleared with hospital-grade cleaning substances which kill both viruses and bacteria on contact and also provide ongoing protection. Independent testing by Imperial College London has seen monthly swabs of touchpoints in stations, buses and air samples in ticket halls taken since September 2020 with no trace of coronavirus being found since the testing began.
TfL’s enhanced cleaning regime continues, making their network cleaner than ever, with over 1,100 hand sanitisers installed throughout the network and around 200 UV light devices providing continual sanitation on escalator handrails. TfL buses and trains are also well ventilated with air in a typical train carriage, changing on average every two to three minutes.