Keep culture of mask-wearing on the Tube - ministers

·2-min read

Ministers were today urged to promote a “culture of mask wearing” on the Tube if as planned they are no longer mandatory from July 19.

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Munira Wilson called for the campaign, stressing many people would be “far more confident” using public transport if most passengers had face coverings.

Environment Secretary George Eustice outlined the plan yesterday for all legal requirements on Covid-19 restrictions, including for the wearing of face masks, social distancing and working from home, to be ditched on the 19th.

He suggested advisory guidance may instead be issued for travel on public transport, though explained decisions were still to be made on these changes.

He made clear that he personally wanted to abandon mask wearing as soon as possible, a view echoed by Rishi Sunak.

The Chancellor stressed it was his “strong expectation” that lockdown will fully end on July 19 and once masks were no longer mandatory he would also stop donning one “as soon as possible”.

However, amid signs of Cabinet tensions over the policy, Downing Street refused to repeat Mr Eustice’s view.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that while the Government wanted to get back to “as close to normal as is possible” with the final stage of easing lockdown, no final decisions had been taken.

There are concerns, though, that London’s economic recovery could be hampered by the ditching of face masks.

Ms Wilson said: “Public transport, especially the Tube, can often be crowded which increases the risk of spreading Covid.

“So even if mask wearing is no longer mandatory after the 19th July, the Government should still be promoting a culture of mask wearing on public transport.”

She continued: “Younger people haven’t had both their jabs yet and many people would be far more confident to travel if they knew most people were wearing a mask.

“Encouraging people to wear masks for a little longer is pragmatic and sensible, and a small price to pay to keep people safe and healthy.”

Mayor Sadiq Khan is also urging a cautious approach, driven by “the science”, on mask-wearing on the Tube.

He is concerned that discarding their use could discourage use of public transport as the city seeks to get back on its feet after the significant economic blows from three lockdowns.

A study by travel watchdogs also found that some people could stop using public transport if passengers do not wear face coverings.

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