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Coronavirus: Executive to debate compulsory masks on public transport

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A man wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop in central London displaying a notice advising passengers to wear a face covering on public transport

A man wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop in central London displaying a notice advising passengers to wear a face covering on public transport

PA

Nichola Mallon

Nichola Mallon

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

A man wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop in central London displaying a notice advising passengers to wear a face covering on public transport

The Executive is to hold talks on whether face coverings should be made mandatory or not for people using public transport as the country continues to ease out of the lockdown regulations.

Speaking at yesterday's Covid-19 briefing at Stormont Castle, deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill explained that Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon had asked the Executive to discuss the use of face masks on public transport.

This came after last week's announcement that face coverings would be compulsory from June 15 on all public transport in England.

The policy was brought in due to concerns about the difficulties of physical distancing on crowded public transport, despite people being asked to use other means of travelling, to maintain distance, face away from each other and travel at staggered times.

The aim of the measures is to help stop asymptomatic people passing the virus on to others and act as a reminder for other hygiene rules.

First Minister Arlene Foster stated that some people believe social distancing is not required when wearing face coverings - something she said was "wrong".

"There were plans at the beginning of the pandemic to reduce the numbers of people travelling and, of course, because people weren't travelling, the numbers went down in any event," the DUP leader said at yesterday's briefing.

"We have, as an Executive, a number of weeks ago, recommended that people should wear face coverings on public transport and indeed in shops.

"There is a body of evidence that says that actually when people are wearing face coverings, they think they don't have to take the other hygiene regimes seriously and that's not the case.

"That concerns me when I see people wearing face masks but they're not socially distancing.

"That's wrong and you have to continue to be involved in social distancing even when you're wearing a face mask because the mask doesn't protect you, it only protects others from you breathing upon them.

"I think people need to realise that and we will have that discussion around face masks again on Thursday when we have more advice from our advisers."

Sinn Fein's northern leader Ms O'Neill added that people using face coverings may lull those who do so into a false sense of security when trying to avoid catching the virus.

"The Infrastructure Minister [Nichola Mallon] actually brought a paper today to the Executive to ask for a conversation on this and we've agreed to come back to give a very considered view on it," she said.

"Previously when we have sought medical and scientific advice in terms of face coverings and the merit or not of them, we've been told that yes they are helpful and give people some reassurance in terms of moving around.

"However, we need to watch that people don't lapse into a false sense of security so they do not spread the virus. We have that still under review and we will be coming back to that discussion later in the week."

Belfast Telegraph