‘It is very much in line with what we expected – indeed wanted – to happen’
Grant Shapps has backed the decision by London’s mayor to keep face coverings mandatory on public transport — despite Boris Johnson insisting just last week people would have the choice whether to wear them.
As the government prepares to drop the legal requirement to use face coverings from 19 July, the transport secretary Sadiq Khan’s decision was in line with what the government had “wanted” and “expected”.
Ordering Transport for London (TfL) to retain the requirement, Mr Khan said on Wednesday he was “not prepared” to put tube, tram and other transport users in the capital “at risk” by removing the rules on Monday.
In Scotland, first minister Nicola Sturgeon also announced she would keep in place the instruction to wear a face masks in shops, on transport and other enclosed spaces “in all likelihood for some Time to come”.
Pressed on whether the government disagreed with the action, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “No — whilst we are going from legal requirements to guidelines, we do expect individual carriers, the transport organisations, to make sure that they are putting in place whatever is appropriate for their network.”
“The airlines have already said that you will need to carry on wearing masks on those,” he added. “It is very much in line with what we expected – indeed wanted – to happen.
“On the other hand if you’re on a long distance train, you’re the only person in the carriage, it’s late in the evening or something, there’s clearly no real point in wearing a mask, we don’t want to say you’re breaking the law by not wearing a mask in a situation where’s the absolutely no advantage of wearing a mask
“This is very much what we expect, anticipate and said should and would happen”.
Speaking just last week the prime minister said people “might choose” to wear a facing covering in places such as crowded public transport, but the government toughened its stance at the weekend with new guidance saying it “expected” the public to use face masks in enclosed public spaces.
Mr Khan has also asked TfL to put measures in place to help ensure the continued use of masks in taxis and private hire vehicles by both drivers and passengers unless they are exempt.
“I’ve repeatedly made clear that the simplest and safest option would have been for the Government to retain the national requirement for face coverings on public transport,” Mr Khan said.
“I’m not prepared to stand by and put Londoners, and our city’s recovery, at risk.
“This is why, after careful consideration, I have decided to ask TfL to retain the requirement for passengers to wear a face covering on all TfL services when the national regulations change.
“By keeping face masks mandatory we will give Londoners and visitors the reassurance and confidence to make the most of what our city has to offer, while also protecting our heroic transport workers and those who may be vulnerable and rely on the network to get around our city.
“It’s an extra layer of protection on top of TfL’s world-leading enhanced cleaning regime – and I’m sure Londoners will continue to do the right thing as they have done throughout the pandemic, and continue to wear a face covering on TfL services.”