COMMUTERS will need to get into the habit of never leaving home without a face covering when travelling by public transport, Grant Shapps said last night.
Ahead of face coverings becoming mandatory on trains and buses in England from Monday, the Transport Secretary suggested carrying the garments should become as routine as picking up a purse, wallet or mobile phone.
He also warned travellers could be fined for not wearing face coverings on public transport but promised staff will be “gentle” for the first days of the new rules.
“From Monday, it becomes mandatory in England to wear a face covering on public transport – that includes trains, buses, trams, ferries and planes,” the Transport Secretary said at last night’s Downing Street coronavirus briefing.
“Remembering your face covering should be the same as picking up your phone, wallet or purse when you leave home.
“Please read the guidance, ensure you have a face covering and protect your fellow commuters.
“As we become more mobile, we must not forget that this insidious virus is still a threat.”
Mr Shapps said travellers should not wear surgical masks, which the Government wants restricted to healthcare and care home staff. Advice on making face coverings was available on the Government’s website.
“As we remove to recovery, it’s more important than ever to protect each other, preventing those showing no symptoms from infecting others.
“I know there is huge public support for compulsory face coverings. They show respect for our fellow travellers,” the Cabinet minister said.
“But for clarity, transport operators will be able to refuse permission to travel where someone isn’t using a face covering.
“And, this weekend, I’m taking powers from through the Public Health Act leading to fines for non-compliance too.
“We’ll take a gentle approach to enforcement during the first couple of days. Help will be at hand.”
Mr Shapps said transport advisers – known as “journey makers” – will be deployed to remind commuters of the need to wear face coverings.
He added that people should continue to avoid using public transport where possible.
“If you can work from home, you should continue to do so. If you cannot work from home, you should try to avoid public transport.
“If you must use public transport, you should travel at quieter times of day.
“And if you are an employer, you should do everything in your power to prevent staff from travelling unless it’s absolutely vital. And please, do allow staff to travel at quieter times,” the Transport Secretary said.
Mr Shapps also appealed to members of the public to continue to avoid gatherings of more than six people including joining protest marches.
“I understand that people want to show their passion for issues that they care deeply about.
“And we must never be complacent about stamping out racism and discrimination in this country.
“But please – for the sake of your health, and that of your friends and families – don’t attend mass gatherings.”
Mr Shapps also raised hopes that some foreign holidays may be possible this year for some Britons this year.
He confirmed talks were underway about the potential for “air bridges” to destinations with low coronavirus infection rates that would avoid the need for 14 days of quarantine for returning travellers.
“That is something that we are actively working on. The first review of this takes place on June 29,” the Transport Secretary said.
“We will need to wait, it is a blanket situation but we are talking to airlines who are part of the specialist working group on this and talking to airports and will talk to other countries about.
“The basic principle must be that we must make sure we don’t end up in a second wave situation.
“We will only open up air bridges when it is safe to do so – and there will be more of that on June 29.”