Transport for London drops mandatory face mask rules | london underground
Passengers will no longer need to wear masks on the Tube and other transport in the capital from Thursday, Transport for London has announced.
TfL said it would continue to strongly recommend the wearing of masks but would no longer make them compulsory.
The change comes into force at the same time as laws requiring self-isolation for people with coronavirus are lifted in England by Boris Johnson.
TfL previously continued to make mask-wearing a ‘condition of carriage’ on the London Underground and other services, even when the government said it was no longer a legal requirement.
However, compliance rates dropped without the threat of police enforcement or set fines. The legal requirement in England to wear masks on transport and other public places, reimposed during the surge of Omicron, was dropped at the end of January.
TfL said face coverings have been shown to reduce Covid transmission and boost passenger confidence in using public transport.
The metro was one of the worst-hit forms of transport at the start of the pandemic, with passenger numbers falling to just 4% of normal levels.
By last week, Tube numbers had returned to around 60% of pre-pandemic weekday levels, and London bus ridership at around 75%.
Lilli Matson, TfL’s head of safety, health and environment, said: “Following the government’s decision to lift coronavirus restrictions and falling infection rates in London, we will be removing the condition of transport which requires customers to wear face coverings from February 24, but will continue to strongly recommend that customers and staff wear them as they have been proven to reduce the risk of transmission and we know that ‘they give confidence to people using public transport.
TfL said independent tests carried out by Imperial College London every month since September 2020 had found no traces of coronavirus on touchpoints at stations and on buses, and revealed that the entire transport network was well ventilated.
London TravelWatch said its latest surveys showed 69% of people felt safer on public transport when passengers wore face coverings. Its chief executive, Emma Gibson, said: “We also know that this figure is even higher for older people and those who use public transport more regularly.”
Wearing a mask in indoor public places remains compulsory until the end of March in Scotland. It is also compulsory on public transport in Wales, while in Northern Ireland it is recommended.
Airlines will continue to require masks.