Foreign nationals wearing facemasks line up outside the departure terminal of the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport to board a special evacuation flight during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Kolkata on March 31, 2020. (Photo by Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP)

Face coverings to soon be compulsory on public transport in UK

The wearing of face coverings on public transport is to be made mandatory from June 15 as the coronavirus lockdown is further eased, the UK government announced on Thursday.

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps told the daily Downing Street briefing in London that the rule would not mean the public being required to wear surgical masks, but some form of face covering including home-made versions as they would be a condition for travel.

“This will mean you can be refused travel if you don’t comply and you could be fined,” said Shapps.

The measures will be enforced by British Transport Police, but the minister said he expects the “vast majority of people won’t need to be forced” to comply with the rules.

The new rules will come into place as the UK is set to further relax its coronavirus lockdown from mid-June, as the country’s death toll from the virus hit 39,904 on Thursday – up 176 from the previous day.

“That’s the lowest working week day level of fatalities when measured by a seven-day rolling average, the daily number of deaths currently stands at 241, down from a peak of 943 on the April 14,” Shapps said, adding that the number of new COVID-19 cases is “steadily falling” despite an increase in testing.

The transport minister also highlighted that despite a drop in overall travel, the government has seen a 100 per cent increase in weekly cycling, up to 200 per cent on weekends, compared to pre-COVID levels and said he wants to use the pandemic to create a “green transport revolution”.

“Our history shows us how quickly we can update as a nation,” he said.