U.K. Orders Travelers to Wear Face Coverings from June 15

(Bloomberg) --

All passengers using trains, buses and other forms of public transport in England will be required to wear face coverings under new rules announced by the U.K. government to stem the spread of coronavirus.

From Monday June 15, anyone refusing to cover their faces with a home made mask or other non-surgical item will face fines and could be barred from boarding, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

“It’s a condition of travel, so you cannot travel unless you’re wearing a face covering,” he told the daily government press conference on Thursday. “It’s in everybody’s interests to make this work. It protects everybody.”

As more businesses resume operations and pressure builds on public transportation, the measure is designed to ensure there will still be a degree of protection from the virus that’s killed almost 40,000 people in the U.K.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a member of the opposition Labour Party who’s been calling for the measure for weeks, welcomed the announcement, saying it is “in line with a large body of evidence” that face masks “can help stop the spread of coronavirus.”

Devolved Decision

Shapps said very young children, the disabled, and those with breathing difficulties would be exempt from the rules. He also said the regulations apply to England only, but the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have typically moved at the same time or within days.

“I don’t think it will turn out to be terribly confusing,” he said.

Network Rail Chairman Peter Hendy said he expects passengers boarding trains in England won’t remove their masks until after disembarking, wherever the destination was.

With social distancing rules, the capital’s transport system can only carry 13% to 15% of its regular number of passengers, Khan said.

“We all must play our part by working from home if we can and making journeys on foot or by bike if at all possible in order to keep the service safe for those who really need it,” he said.

That message was buttressed by Shapps, who said weekday cycling had doubled, while at weekends it had tripled. He promised a “green transport revolution” as the economy cranks up again following the coronavirus lockdown.

“We want to use this recovery to permanently change the way we travel with huge levels of investment,” Shapps said. “We’re bringing forward green transport improvements that otherwise would have taken years or decades to achieve.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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