Mandatory use of face masks on public transport to be policed 'by staff and public'

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The mandatory use of face coverings on public transport in Wales will be enforced by "staff and the public," the Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said.

Face masks will become mandatory on public transport in Wales from July 27th.

Speaking at the Welsh Government's daily press conference the minister said: "We expect it to be policed by people undertaking the journey themselves - both the staff and the public."

He added: "We've seen a high level of compliance with each of the measures we've introduced through lockdown and many members of the public support the wearing of face coverings.

"If you're a taxi driver then you'll be in a position where you can either not take a fare or enquire why someone isn't wearing a face mask."

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On Monday the First Minister said the requirement to wear face coverings on public transport in Wales "will be enforced" and that it cannot be "left to the driver and to staff on the ground."

Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government would publish an "enforcement regime" in the coming days.

The union for rail and transport workers has said staff cannot police the use of face coverings on trains.

A RMT spokesperson said: "The Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum has agreed that Rail staff cannot ‘police’ the use of face-coverings on the Rail Network. Front line staff already have Important safety duties and responsibilities which must remain their focus.

"Staff may occasionally give polite reminders and point passengers to information on posters etc but will not be ‘policing ‘ the wearing of Face-coverings by passengers."

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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, and will be mandatory in shops in England from 24 July, with shoppers facing a £100 fine if they refuse to comply.

Senior police officers have said they would not be able to enforce the UK Government policy to make face coverings compulsory in shops in England.

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The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said shopkeepers and managers should be responsible for customer compliance with the law when inside their premises.

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt added senior officers were "unaware that the announcement was to be made" but had time to work on the measures before they come into effect.

Meanwhile the Police Federation, representing rank-and-file officers, said it was "unrealistic and unfair" to expect its members to patrol the aisles looking for people breaking the coronavirus regulations, with chairman John Apter adding: "Only as this last resort should the police get involved."

People with respiratory diseases and children will be exempt from wearing face coverings on public transport in Wales.

Mr Gething said: "There will be a range of people who won't be able and shouldn't wear a face covering.

"People who are asthmatic, people with breathing difficulties that may come from other conditions, children and young people."

Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales, said: “We're glad to see that the First Minister has taken this step today. Face coverings are a vital tool in our fight against Covid-19 and afford greater protection for people where social distancing is not possible.

"However, it is vital that we remember not everyone is able to wear a face covering. People with respiratory conditions, such as Asthma and COPD, find they trigger their condition and making breathing significantly more difficult.

"We hope the Welsh Government will issue very clear guidance soon about exemptions for those with medical conditions. It's vital we ensure those who can wear face coverings do, while avoiding creating a negative stigma for those who cannot."