The UK Government has mandated all passengers to wear face coverings on public transport in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) from 15 June.
The announcement was made by UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps. The government is currently in talks with operators to ensure that it is implemented.
Operators will be able to deny boarding or levy fines for those passengers who do not wear face coverings.
The implementation of these changes will be supported by the British Transport Police.
This measure will be applicable to all passengers on buses, coaches, trains, trams, ferries and aircraft.
However, social distancing and hand washing are still an important measure to prevent the spread of the disease.
The government will also collaborate with operators to provide staff with face coverings and ensure that they wear them, depending on their role.
Shapps said: “People should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible. But, as restrictions are carefully eased when it is safe to do so, it’s likely that we will see more people needing to use public transport.
“So, while respecting social distancing and maintaining good hand hygiene remain the most important steps we can all take to stay safe, wearing a face covering can play a role in helping us to protect each other.”
People have been advised to use scarves and other textiles to make their own masks that cover the nose and mouth instead of medical-grade PPE masks, which are necessary for essential workers.
Commenting on this new measure, independent watchdog Transport Focus CEO Anthony Smith said: “People thinking of returning to public transport have told us they want face coverings to be used by all passengers. The government’s decision will provide welcome clarity and will boost pressure on others to cover up.
“Passengers will now need clear information on where best to find a face covering, if they will be handed out at stations and if they will be turned away if they aren’t wearing one.”
Last month, UK-based Rail Delivery Group announced that there was a 25% increase in rail bookings mid-May, which prompted train companies to urge passengers to only travel when necessary.