Translink has said it is ‘not aware’ of anyone having been fined for failure to wear a face covering in its buses, trains or premises.
It came after an SDLP MLA revealed concerns about a breakdown of mask discipline and social distancing in Northern Ireland, particularly on public transport.
Sinead McLaughlin spoke out after her office was contacted by concerned constituents.
The Foyle MLA said: “Several of my constituents have contacted me to pass on their concern that passengers are not wearing masks on public transport and that some are not exercising social distancing on trains.”
Last night a Translink spokesperson said there had been ‘high compliance’ with the rules across the transport network, but admitted: “We are not aware of fines being issued”.
The wearing of face coverings on most buses, trains and ferries became mandatory in Northern Ireland from July 10 last year. There are exemptions for those with medical conditions.
Face coverings were also made mandatory in shops here last August.
However, only a handful of fines have been handed out relating to infringements in stores — even though the Executive increased the penalty in a bid to boost compliance last October. Fines rose from £60 to £200 for not complying with the regulations.
Ms McLaughlin urged people to stick to the regulations, amid concerns over high Covid rates here.
She added: “I appeal to people to use common sense and to protect themselves and others. Covid has not gone away. Even people who are fully vaccinated still carry a risk of infection and of passing that infection on.
“Northern Ireland has taken a more cautious approach than England in terms of retaining protective measures against Covid. This makes sense as we still have high levels of infection in some areas and we have the UK’s lowest levels of vaccination in the population.”
Ms McLaughlin warned the problem goes way beyond just public transport.
“Translink are in a difficult situation,” she said. “It’s the public that has to behave sensibly.
“The public have to remember that they are not only dealing with their own personal safety and their own personal decision about what risks they are willing to take — they are also imposing their decisions about risk on other people. That is the point which has to be taken into account.”
Translink added: “Face coverings continue to be mandatory when using public transport unless you are exempt.
“They are one of the many safety measures in place to make public transport safe alongside the installation of sanitiser dispensers at main stations, regular intensive cleaning routines, protective screens on vehicles and in-stations, and cashless payments.
“Generally there has been high compliance across the network — with over 80% — and we are grateful to the majority of passengers for their understanding and respect for others around them.”