Face masks to become mandatory in taxis and on public transport in Wales

The First Minister will announce that face coverings will be mandatory on public transport from 27th July. Credit: PA Images

Face masks will become mandatory on public transport in Wales under a new rule, it has been announced.

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said a face covering must be worn while travelling on buses, trains and taxis from 27 July.

Mr Drakeford said: "For the sake of simplicity and consistency, as well as being part of our plan to help reduce the risk of transmission while on public transport where it is not always possible to maintain a 2m physical distance, it will become mandatory for people to wear a three-layer face covering while travelling – this includes taxis.

The requirement to wear a face covering on public transport will come into effect from 27 July."

The rule change is being introduced as more people return to work and use public transport. The First Minister said the amount of physical space on buses and trains is "limited, which means it is harder for people to stay 2m apart than in other public places."

He added: "Our roads and train tracks cross the order with England. Having separate regimes is not sustainable in the long run."

Face coverings have been mandatory on public transport in England since 15 June and are also compulsory in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Masks must also be worn in shops in Scotland.

The news comes as hairdressers and barber shops reopened in Wales along with pubs, restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating.

Face masks will not be made compulsory in other public places for the time being but the First Minister said the advice might change coronavirus cases begin to increase. He also said some businesses may ask people to wear a face covering before they enter the premises if the 2m rule cannot be followed.

The rule change is being introduced as more people return to work and use public transport. Credit: PA Images

To be effective, face masks should cover the nose, mouth, and chin and be secured with elastic loops or ties, include multiple layers, be washable and reusable.

Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price MS has previously warned that a slow and cautious approach to making the wearing of face masks mandatory “risks public health.”

Mr Price said: “Further deaths can be prevented if face mask are worn in public. In Wales, this could be as many as 1000 people. 

“The guidance from WHO has – for some time – been that governments should recommended the use of face masks in public. This latest data from IHME has stepped up the urgency. This is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but, put more simply, a matter of life and death." 

The British Medical Association has called for face coverings to be worn as soon as possible and in all situations where social distancing is not possible.

Dr Phil White, Chair of the BMA’s Welsh GP Committee, said there has been some evidence that countries that introduced masks early on in the pandemic have reduced transmission of the virus.

He added: "Early on in the illness, when we were all socially isolating and people weren't going out and about, the need possibly wasn't there.

"Now of course, we're out and about more, we're gathering socially, social distancing does seem to be quite difficult in some areas, and really the only answer is to wear a mask."

When asked by Political Editor, Adrian Masters, why the rule wouldn't be enforced for another two weeks, the First Minister responded. "Anyone who feels comfortable wearing a covering before the 2 weeks is more than welcome to. Once it is mandatory there will be consequences and it is fair that people in the country have time to prepare for the date. The next time I use a bus I will be wearing a face covering like everybody else. "However, Welsh Conservative Darren Millar MS, questioned why it is not being introduced immediately saying precautions needed to be taken to avoid a second wave.

“Lockdown is being eased, life is returning to a ‘new normal’, but we must still take every precaution to avoid a second wave of cases, and making wearing face masks mandatory from today may go some way to achieving this – but only if brought in now.”

  • Watch Monday's press conference with Mark Drakeford