Thousands fail to wear face coverings on public transport but only a handful are fined, figures reveal

Passengers wear face masks as a precaution against the transmission of the novel coronavirus as they wait on an London Underground station platform in London on July 17, 2020. - Boris Johnson said on July 17 he hoped Britain would "return to normality" by November despite being badly affected by the coronavirus and predictions of a second wave of cases during winter months. Johnson sketched out a timetable for easing the remaining lockdown measures in England, including lifting homeworking guidance and reopening sports stadiums and live theatre. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Large numbers of public transport passengers are still refusing to wear face coverings, figures have revealed. (Getty)

Thousands of passengers using the country’s public transport network are still refusing to wear face coverings, figures have revealed.

Figures obtained by the Sunday Telegraph showed that police stopped nearly 30,000 people in less than a fortnight following the introduction of rules requiring people to wear face masks on trains, buses and tubes from 15 June.

The figures from British Transport Police (BTP), obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, also revealed that of the 28,964 people stopped between 13 July and 25 July, most were allowed to continue on their journey.

Just 33 fines were issued, according to the figures, and 1,605 people were told to leave the transport network, while the rest were allowed to continue their journey.

The figures align with concerns from some that not enough is being done to enforce the wearing of face coverings in some public places.

But BTP said its approach is to always begin by “engaging” with people, before moving on to further action.

A spokesperson said: “Our approach is to always begin by engaging with the public and explain the reasons why the protections are necessary and a lawful requirement.

“Since face coverings became mandatory on public transport our officers have spoken with thousands of passengers, encouraging them to wear face coverings whilst travelling.

“The overwhelming majority of people have listened, complied, and continued to play an important role in protecting other passengers and rail staff – we have seen compliance levels of around 97%.

“In those cases where people have refused to comply with the requirement, and they don’t have a valid exemption or reasonable excuse, officers have taken action by refusing entry to trains, directing passengers to leave services, and as a last resort, issuing fixed penalty notices. In a few cases, arrests have been made.”

Coronavirus: what happened today
Click here to sign up to the latest news and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter