London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that wearing a mask will remain mandatory on the city’s transport network after restrictions are eased on 19 July.
The announcement comes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to relax most COVID-19 restrictions in England next week.
After 19 July, the public will be expected to wear masks indoors, although this is not compulsory by law.
Transport for London (TfL), which is chaired by Khan, will nevertheless still require masks to be worn on all buses, trains and other transport services. This means that wearing a mask will be listed as a condition in a legal agreement between TfL and its customers.
“I’m not prepared to stand by and put Londoners, and our city’s recovery, at risk. This is why, after careful consideration, I have decided to ask TfL to retain the requirement for passengers to wear a face covering on all TfL services when the national regulations change,” said Khan.
“We know from the government’s own advisors and from the World Health Organisation that wearing a face covering indoors does reduce transmissions. It leads to greater public safety and greater public confidence as well,” he added.
This week is World Mask Week, with campaigners encouraging people to continue to wear a mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The campaign is encouraging both individuals and organisations to support the continued wearing of masks.
The global campaign is supported by the Pandemic Action Network, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Union, 3M and over 50 global, regional and local partner organisations.
In response to Khan’s decision to make face masks mandatory on TfL services, Emma Gibson, director of London TravelWatch said: “The polling results from our research with Transport Focus seems to back up this decision as it shows that the majority of passengers would like to see face coverings mandated on public transport, with 56% saying they won’t use public transport unless passengers are required to wear a face covering.”
The government has faced criticism from experts and healthcare professionals over its decision to lift the legal requirement to wear a mask on 19 July.
This includes the British Medical Association (BMA), whose council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: “While the government has said it will continue to encourage the wearing of face coverings after 19 [July], within the same breath ministers confirm that masks will not be mandatory.”
“This is contradictory and shows the government absolving itself of responsibility while heaping pressure on the public, confused by mixed messaging of the highest order,” he added.