LONDON: Mayors and political leaders across England have called for face masks to remain on public transport, despite coronavirus rules easing next week. Almost all Covid-19 restrictions are set to be removed on 19 July.
Mayors including Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham and West Midlands’ Andy Street have urged passengers to continue wearing face coverings.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared masks mandatory on public transport in the capital. But Mr Khan, unlike his counterparts across England, has the power to make it compulsory.
Mr Burnham said masks would still be required on Greater Manchester’s Metrolink tram network as part of a condition of carriage.
He said he did not have power over buses or trains but urged people to continue wearing masks as an “act of solidarity”. He said he had been inundated with messages from vulnerable people describing 19 July as “fear day” rather than “freedom day”, and it was “not right” that they should be “forced off” public transport.
West Yorkshire’s mayor Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis in South Yorkshire have ordered the use of face coverings to continue in the county’s bus stations and encouraged their use on public transport.
Liverpool mayor Steve Rotherham said he was asking all transport operators to enforce mask-wearing.”I’ll be asking all of them to do the right thing,” he said. Wearing face masks “costs nothing” and they were a “minor inconvenience”, he added.
Meanwhile, in the North East, council leaders have called for similar powers to those of the London mayor.
North of Tyne’s mayor Jamie Driscoll said coronavirus was “still a dangerous disease” and the government should “reverse its decision” He added: “You wouldn’t make the speed limit voluntary.”
Mr Street called on all passengers to “join in this collective effort”, and Transport for West Midlands staff would be handing out face masks after 19 July.
The government has previously said masks were still “expected and recommended” in crowded indoor areas, but people will not be required by law to wear them from Monday.