Yorkshire scientists and businesses react to face mask rule changes in build-up to Christmas 

Businesses and public transport operators across Yorkshire are preparing to deal with tighter Covid restrictions which come into force from tomorrow as part of emergency measures to limit the spread of the new Omicron variant. 

Those include wearing face coverings in shops and on public transport which will once again become mandatory. 

Catherine Noakes, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Leeds, said the biggest risk for the transmission of the new variant is spending extended periods of time in crowded indoor spaces, and wearing a covering is one of the easiest ways to mitigate it. 

She said: “Over the past 20 months, scientists have been developing a detailed picture of how the variants of the virus that cause Covid-19 are transmitted, and how simple steps can help keep people safe. Although data is still emerging, it is highly likely that the Omicron variant transmits in the same way and the same mitigation measures are likely to reduce risks.   

“Even with good vaccination coverage, we still need other precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. The easiest ways to reduce the chance of infection are to use a face covering in busy settings, socially distance, make sure a space is well ventilated - so the air changes frequently - and ensure that people wash or sanitise their hands frequently.

“Ventilation can be more difficult in cold weather, but if you are spending time indoors with people you do not normally live with, then it is important to reduce the risk of virus transmission through the air. Even just opening windows a small amount or opening them for a few minutes every hour can help to ventilate a room and reduce the risk of infection.”

Less than four weeks to go until Christmas, business owners have also been sharing their thoughts on the new measures. 

A senior manager at East Yorkshire Buses, Ben Gilligan, said he is pleased the government has re-introduced mask wearing on public transport, but drivers are not in a position to enforce it.

He said: “Clearly there are some worries, and that is why we are encouraging people to cooperate and be kind towards our drivers who are working on the frontline and ensure you wear a mask, it’s not a lot to ask really.” 

A cafe lounge at Sheffield's Fox Valley will be asking customers to wear a face covering from tomorrow although it does not have an obligation to due to falling within the hospitality sector.

Donna Simpson from Zorro Lounge said: "We're doing this because a lot of people are still very anxious, especially the elderly. It could affect trade quite a lot, we’ve got quite a few Christmas parties booked in."

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