Do we still have to wear masks and what are the rules on London transport and schools?

·4-min read

All remaining Covid restrictions have been lifted in England due to falling rates of Covid infections, following an announcement by Boris Johnson.

Here is everything you need to know about wearing a face covering on London public transport and schools.

What happens now to the mask mandate?

Face coverings are no longer required by law in any settings, although TfL and the London Mayor are encouraging Londoners to keep wearing masks, especially in enclosed and crowded spaces.

People are also no longer required to work from home where possible, while face masks rules have been lifted in places such as shops and on public transport.

Schools in England have now scrapped all remaining Covid restrictions.

Face masks have been optional in venues since the end of the Government’s Plan B in late January, and Covid passes are no longer required for entry.

What happens with masks on TfL services like tubes and buses?

Transport for London on Wednesday confirmed that, from Thursday, it would no longer be a “condition of carriage” that face masks be worn on its services.

This means that Londoners can no longer be turned away from TfL services for failing to wear a mask, although passengers are ‘strongly recommended’ to continue wearing a mask as a courtesy to others.

Following the relaxation of Plan B, TfL upheld its conditions of carriage for passengers to wear face masks or coverings on its services, including the London Underground, Overground, buses, trains and trams.

But it has confirmed it will be dropping its own mask rules, in line with England’s changes to Covid regulations on Thursday, February 24.

TfL’s chief safety, health and environment officer, Lilli Matson, said: “Following the Government’s decision to lift coronavirus restrictions and the falling infection rates in London, we will be removing the condition of carriage that requires customers to wear face coverings from February 24, but will continue to strongly recommend that customers and staff wear them as they are proven to reduce the risk of transmission and we know they provide confidence to people using public transport.”

Although masks are no longer legally mandated in England, train operators are encouraging passengers to wear face coverings on their services and in stations as a courtesy to others.

What about face masks on the Eurostar?

Face masks are still mandatory elsewhere in the UK and on the Eurostar, so customers are being urged to keep up with face covering rules for rail operators and destinations.

What does Sadiq Khan say about masks?

Sadiq Khan (PA)
Sadiq Khan (PA)

Mr Khan said described face masks as a “simple, effective measure that give Londoners confidence to travel”.

He said: “I urge passengers to be considerate of their fellow Londoners and continue to wear a face covering where appropriate unless exempt.”

Why is Boris Johnson dropping the mask mandate?

Data showing falling rates of Covid infections since the start of the year has prompted further relaxation of mask requirements.

According to the ONS, more than 98 per cent of adults in England have Covid antibodies that will help protect them against serious illness.

On the use of face masks going forward, Mr Johnson said: “In the country at large, we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one.”

What are unions saying?

Manuel Cortes (PA Archive)
Manuel Cortes (PA Archive)

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said: “As ever our union puts public health first and we know that face coverings help reduce transmission of the virus and will give the public confidence on public transport.

“It’s vital our brave transport members who have been on the front line of this pandemic continue to feel they are protected.

“Sadiq Khan is spot on when he says face coverings should remain beyond the end of Plan B, especially given the rates of infection we are still seeing.

“Clearly the Government should back this, not only for London but across the rest of our public transport network.”

What will happen in schools?

Since January, face masks are no longer worn in classrooms or needed in corridors.

Staff and students without symptoms in England are no longer asked to test for Covid twice-weekly, nor are they legally required to self-isolate following a positive test.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teachers’ union, told the PA news agency: “No-one wants face masks for any longer than they have to be on… teachers and pupils much prefer education without face masks.

“But I think this is premature.”

However, Mike Hobday, director of campaigns at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said the charity was delighted with the news, adding that it would be a “huge relief to England’s 45,000 deaf children, who tell us that face masks have left them struggling to learn and left out of conversations with their friends”.

“We now need to get on with the job of making sure that deaf children are given extra help to catch up and recover from the isolation they have been experiencing,” he added.

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