Freedom Day: Do I still have to wear a face mask on public transport?

Freedom Day: Do I still have to wear a face mask on public transport?
Freedom Day: Do I still have to wear a face mask on public transport?
Face coverings have been mandatory on public transport for the past year (Picture: Getty Images)

Freedom Day has arrived in England – the day when the majority of remaining Covid restrictions we have been living under for over a year are lifted.

While this has paved the way for venues such as nightclubs to open for the first time in 16 months, Boris Johnson has urged caution in the wake of soaring cases in the UK, telling people: ‘This pandemic is not over.’

With that in mind, a question mark hangs over whether face masks – which have been mandatory in indoor spaces for the past year – are still needed on trains, Tubes and buses from today.

Will you still need your mask if you’re planning a journey?Here’s what you need to know…

Will I still need a face covering on public transport after July 19?

It was confirmed by Sajid Javid on July 12 that the legal requirement to wear a mask on public transport, as well as in other enclosed spaces such as shops, will end on July 19 when other restrictions are lifted.

This would technically mean that it will no longer be mandatory to wear a mask on trains, buses, Tubes or other forms of public transport after this date –

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the end for face coverings – with many transport companies having set their own rules about whether or not masks will be required from today.

London Transport has said that masks will continue to be mandatory on its train, Tube, overground and bus services, as well as in black taxis and private hire vehicles.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said that masks will be a requirement on the city’s Metrolink tram and also at Manchester Airport, while other parts of the country have urged passengers to continue wearing face coverings if they are using public transport.

Boris Johnson lists out his five point plan for reopening and 'living with' Covid

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Most local mayors do not have the power to make face coverings mandatory – although transport companies can set their own rules around whether or not they want passengers to wear them.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has also outlined three situations in which you may choose to wear a mask.

These are if you are in any situation which is indoors and sees you in crowds or close proximity to others, if required to by any competent authority, and as a courtesy if someone else is not comfortable with you not wearing a mask.

Train commuter wearing PPE face mask for safety
Transport companies may set their own rules around mask-wearing (Picture: Getty Images)

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps previously said that he was ‘very relaxed’ about transport companies having their own rules around mask-wearing.

‘We are shifting to this next phase where people use common sense and personal responsibility to decide these things and I think that is actually a sensible way forwards,’ he told MPs in the Commons.

‘If organisations require it to be a condition of carriage then I am very relaxed about that and it is up to them to do.’

Some airlines, including Ryanair and EasyJet, have already said that passengers will still be required to wear masks on their flights.

It should also be noted that these rules will only apply to England – in Scotland face coverings will still be mandatory on public transport even after lockdown rules are lifted on August 9 – with no word on when that requirement might end.

They will also remain mandatory on trains and buses and in taxis in Wales for the time being – while passengers travelling to Wales by train from England will have to wear a face mask once they have crossed the Welsh border.

Officials in northern Ireland are scheduled to review the rules around face coverings in mid-August.

MORE : Lockdown extension looms in Sydney as Australia sees first Covid death of 2021

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Author: Caroline Westbrook