The wearing of face coverings will be mandatory on public transport from July 10, the Stormont infrastructure minister has announced.
Face coverings will also be required in public transport stations, the Executive agreed on Thursday.
There will be exemptions for those who are not able to wear a face covering for health and medical reasons, and for children under the age of 13 as well as outdoor areas of a ferry and school transport.
Meanwhile, a cross-departmental group will engage with the tour coach and taxi industry to explore extending the requirement to these transport modes.
On 10th July, public transport passengers in NI will join passengers on the rest of the island, in Scotland and England, as we move to mandatory face coverings on our public transport to keep each other safe 😷 pic.twitter.com/o3KFtjsT1t— Nichola Mallon (@NicholaMallon) July 2, 2020
Minister Nichola Mallon said there would be a “light touch enforcement” of the policy.
“This is in no way about criminalising people, it’s about keeping them safe,” she told the PA news agency.
“It’s about bringing people with us, there are clear exemptions, so for people who cannot wear face coverings for mental health reasons, physical health or communication reasons, that’s absolutely fine and that will be respected.
“We don’t expect to be in a situation where the PSNI will have to become involved. That has been the case in England, Scotland and the south.”
The minister stressed the need to remain vigilant to the potential spread of coronavirus.
“As restrictions on our movement are eased, the safety of passengers and staff remains my priority,” she said.
“The evidence suggests that you can reduce the risk of spreading the virus by wearing a face covering.
“The requirement will apply to passengers and also staff in public areas who are not protected by a screen. However, there will be exemptions for those who are not able to wear a face covering for specific health and medical reasons.”
She added: “We are asking you to take personal responsibility and do the right thing to protect the health and wellbeing of others. The fact of the matter is you can spread the virus to other more vulnerable people without even knowing you have it. By wearing a face covering you are showing your support and consideration for other passengers and staff.
“Advice will be available on nidirect and social media channels. Translink staff will begin preparing commuters for the requirement to wear face coverings.
“It is also important that you do not get a false sense of security about the level of protection a face covering offers. They are not a substitute for social distancing or good hand hygiene.”