Hopes have been voiced that enforcement action for the wearing of face coverings on public transport will not be necessary.
From Friday July 10, face coverings are to be compulsory when travelling on public transport in Northern Ireland.
The Executive agreed to the policy on Thursday following a request by Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.
Infrastructure Minister @nicholamallon and Translink CEO Chris Conway, want to remind everyone that face coverings will be compulsory when travelling on NI public transport from Friday July 10th. Click for more detail https://t.co/BbZpVGLu4J #HelpUsHelpYou #LetsGoSafelyTogether pic.twitter.com/4P5DiDOwRb— Translink (@Translink_NI) July 3, 2020
The new rule will apply to all passengers and Translink staff in public areas, although there will be exemptions for those who are not able to wear a face covering for specific medical reasons and children under the age of 13.
Translink Group chief executive Chris Conway said disposable masks will be given out in the initial period.
“We understand this will be a big change for everyone and passengers will need time to adapt to the new culture,” he said. “Over the coming week our staff will be helping people to understand the new guidance and, in the initial period, we plan to give away a quantity of disposable masks to get people into the habit of wearing their own face covering.
“Our staff will also be getting involved by wearing face coverings and helping encourage others to get on board.
“In addition, we will have new signage and information on how to make your own face covering on our website and social media channels to inform and reassure passengers, so they have the confidence to use our services when they need to.
“We do hope people will comply with this new regime as this simple act could save lives if we all do it together.
“This will be a legal requirement under the Covid-19 Public Health legislation, however, we hope that enforcement won’t be necessary. If it is, we will work with the relevant bodies.
“That’s not to say we can be complacent, wearing a face covering is just part of the range of measures to reduce the risk of transmission. We still need to practise the wider safety and travel advice including good hand hygiene, using contactless payments, travelling off-peak and social distancing.”
Mr Conway added that the regular deep cleaning of vehicles and facilities with mobile cleaning teams will continue.
Ms 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 said.
“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.”