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Sadiq Khan Defends "Unselfish" Compulsory Face Covering Rules On London Public Transport

Face coverings will continue to be compulsory on public transport in London

5 min read

Sadiq Khan has defended new rules making the use of face coverings compulsory on London public transport beyond 19 July, saying the move would give "confidence" to passengers.

The Mayor of London has confirmed passengers will be required to continue wearing a face covering on public transport in London or risk being refused travel.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed all legal restrictions will be dropped in England from 19 July, with people instead asked to use "personal responsibility" when deciding where to wear a face covering.

But Khan said he had instructed Transport for London to make their use a "condition of carriage" from next Monday, meaning people could be denied access or removed from services if they fail to follow the rules.

Speaking on Wednesday, he told the BBC's Today programme the continued use of face coverings was "one of the most unselfish things" people could do to protect fellow passengers.

"It has been compulsory since last June for very good reasons, the evidence is that wearing a face mask indoors where you can't keep your social distance reduces the chances of transmission," he said.

"Bear in mind, one in three people who have got the virus won't show any symptoms, it is one of the most unselfish things you can do."

"The two main motivations for me continuing it being compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport in London is one: public safety, an additional layer of protection.

"And two: public reassurance.

"The evidence I have had over the last few weeks speaking to our staff through the trade unions, with businesses and with Londoners is that it gives them greater reassurance and confidence, even thought TfL is arguably one of the cleanest public transport services in the world."

Responding to claims that face coverings did little to protect people who have received both jabs, Khan said that medical evidence from both the World Health Organisation, and the government's own scientific advisers backed their continued use in crowded public spaces.

He added: "We have amongst us those who are clinically vulnerable, whose immunity is suppressed, what we don't want is them being nervous and scared to use an essential service like public transport.

"That is why it is really important to recognise that the issue of personal responsibility is all well and good but actually, what about the responsibility to others.

"We know that a face covering does reduce the chances of transmission, it is one of the most unselfish thing you can do."

The decision will mean passengers on London buses, tubes, overground services and the DLR will be asked to continue wearing face coverings, with enforcement officers checking compliance.

"What we are going to do is make it what is called a condition of carriage, basically, think of it as a contract. If you want to use our services, a condition of using them is you must wear a face mask," he said.

"If you don't wear a face mask and you are not exempt or you don't have a good reason you can either be refused entry or asked to leave."

Khan added that the public had largely followed the rules while they were compulsory, saying from 212,000 interactions between passengers and enforcement officers that just 4,000 had been issued fines for refusing to wear coverings, while a further 13,000 were denied access.

He added: "By and large, it is because somebody has had it in their pocket and they have forgotten to take it out, it is in their handbag or they are not putting it over their face as they should."

The London mayor said the rules were similar to those banning the consumption of alchohol on TfL services, with those caught flouting the restrictions open to being removed or refused access.

The move could also prompt other English cities to extend the rules, with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham saying he would not "rule out" bringing in similar restrictions.

Last week transport secretary Grant Shapps said he was "very relaxed" about travel operators imposing their own rules on the use of face coverings beyond the 19 July deadline following a backlash from some transport firms and unions.

Speaking after the TfL policy was announced, he claimed the new rules were what the government had "wanted" to happen.

"Whilst we are going from legal requirements to guidelines, we do expect individual carriers, the transport organisations, to make sure that they are putting in place whatever is appropriate for their network," he told Sky News.

"The airlines have already said that you will need to carry on wearing masks on those. It is very much in line with what we expected – indeed wanted – to happen.

"On the other hand if you’re on a long distance train, you’re the only person in the carriage, it's late in the evening or something, there’s clearly no real point in wearing a mask, we don’t want to say you’re breaking the law by not wearing a mask in a situation where's the absolutely no advantage of wearing a mask

"This is very much what we expect, anticipate and said should and would happen”.

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