Face coverings will be compulsory for passengers on buses, trains, aircraft and ferries in UK from June 15, as public transport use rises following the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.
In view of gradual easing of lockdown in the UK, the British government announced that wearing masks on public transport including trains, buses, trams, aircrafts and ferries will be mandatory.
People without face coverings will not be allowed to board public transport and will potentially face fines, though small children and people with disabilities or breathing difficulties are being exempted.
Responding to the announcement by the government, Chairman of British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “These important measures should not be restricted to public transport but to all areas where social distancing is not always possible. The risk will be much less if the public adopts this now and not mid-June.”
“The BMA believes that the Government should ensure a supply of face coverings for the public, similar to practices in other nations, as there will be circumstances where many individuals may not have the capacity to make them or may be unable to procure them when needed. It is vital that these face coverings are not the same as the medical-grade masks that have been in short supply and must be reserved for frontline staff whose job is dependent upon having them for adequate protection,”
Besides using medical face masks, the use of home-made scarfs, stole, bandana and anything which is readily available and clean is being encouraged.
The key to the success of such initiatives lies in effective and timely communication that suits the regional-ethnical backgrounds of the people, Dr. Nagpaul said.
“It is also essential that the government ensures the public is adequately informed and educated on the proper use of face coverings and reinforces that this by no means reduces the importance of continued adherence to social distancing and proper hand hygiene,” Dr. Nagpaul said.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, masks has been recommended for only two groups of people: those who are experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms or looking after someone who has it and those who are looking after vulnerable category.
Since the lockdown began on March 23, the British government has told people to avoid non-essential use of public transport. While car traffic is back to almost three quarters of pre-lockdown levels, trains are currently only 10% full and buses outside London are running at about 20% capacity.
However, usage is expected to rise as more people return to work in the coming weeks.
The change was welcomed by transport workers’ unions and scientific experts.