Tube and bus passengers in the capital could be made to wear face masks to combat coronavirus from as early as next week.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has revealed that he hopes to persuade the Government to change its position on the issue, but says he has the option to ‘make it mandatory’ just in the city.
That means passengers could be prohibited from travelling on some public transport services in London without face a covering – a significant change from current advice. Existing guidance from Transport for London only goes as far as advising passengers to wear face coverings, which is in line with nationwide policy. The Government is encouraging people to wear masks when social distancing is not possible.
Mr Khan told the London Assembly: ‘Next week I’ll be considering whether I need to use the option I’ve got to make it mandatory.’
He said he had been lobbying the Government since early April over the issue – and will continue to do so in a bid to ‘reach a sensible compromise’. Noting that some train services in London are not under his control, Mr Khan said he wanted to work ‘collegiately’ with the Department for Transport and Government in order to make them ‘do the right thing’.
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‘We don’t want confusion’, he explained, adding: ‘When there is a crisis, what’s important is to have message clarity.
‘I leave the option available, which is to make it mandatory in London only.
‘But I’m hoping we can persuade the Government to do the right thing.’
Mr Khan was also criticised by his Conservative rival Shaun Bailey, who is hoping to replace him as mayor in the delayed election next year, over not providing Transport for London staff with facila masks earlier.
But the mayor said he was only following guidance that said medical Personal Protective Equipment should only be for medical staff in the NHS.
Experts say face coverings can reduce the chances of droplets passing between people and spreading Covid-19, but there has been a reluctance from Government to make their use compulsory.
Mr Khan stressed that evidence suggests masks do not protect the wearer – only those around them.
Other countries have also encouraged their citizens to cover their faces.
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