From Monday 15 June, commuters and other travellers could be fined if caught without a mask or face covering while on public transport in England.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is the rule around face masks?
People are now required to wear masks or face coverings when using tubes, buses, trains and other modes of public transport in England.
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Ride-sharing services, such as Uber, are also encouraging the use of face masks.
Though there has been some discussion surrounding the effectiveness of non-surgical masks, it is generally believed that face coverings do offer some protection from coronavirus, mostly by preventing asymptomatic carriers from inadvertently passing on the virus through droplets.
“The evidence suggests that wearing face coverings offers some, albeit limited, protection, against the spread of the virus”, said transport secretary Grant Schapps, at a conference earlier this month.
The rule has been introduced due to concerns about an inability to socially distance on public transport, with many commuters forced to use public transport to get to work.
It’s also hoped the measure will act as a physical reminder that the virus is still present and circulating, encouraging good hygiene practices like handwashing.
How will the rule be enforced?
The government announced that under new conditions of carriage, fines may be levied for anyone seen to be flouting the face covering rule.
Those not wearing a mask or face covering will be asked to wear one, or could be refused access to public transport and fined £100.
Some stations are handing out free disposable masks at stations, while announcements and billboards remind travellers of the new rules in force.
Over 3,000 extra staff, including police, have reportedly been deployed at stations to make sure people comply with the new rules.
However, there are some questions about how far the rule can be policed, given the scale of the transport network. Earlier this month, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy said he expects passengers to comply with the rule:
“I am not expecting a huge upsurge in railway staff having to police this,” he said. “I am expecting sensible passengers to do their duty and look after themselves and others.”
Are face masks compulsory anywhere else?
Currently in England, face masks are only compulsory on public transport. The government is currently encouraging the use of face masks in other enclosed spaces where social distancing may be difficult, such as shops.
In Scotland, people are being advised to wear masks or face coverings on public transport and other enclosed public spaces, but Nicola Sturgeon has said she is considering making this compulsory.
In Northern Ireland, masks and face coverings are encouraged “in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible”, while in Wales it is currently a matter of personal choice.
The differing advice across the UK means that passengers not wearing a mask on the train in Wales or Scotland would have to don a mask when crossing the border into England.