Face masks compulsory on public transport as UK further eases lockdown

As non-essential stores reopened and more students headed back to schools in England on Monday for the first time in almost three-months, a new rule also came into force in requiring people travelling on public transport to wear face coverings during their journeys.

Under the new rule which took effect on Monday, people in England travelling on trains, buses and commuter ferries, as well as the London Underground, must wear face coverings, reports Xinhua news agency.

Except for people with certain health conditions, disabled people and children under the age of 11, people breaking the rule will face being refused onboard or fined 100 pounds ($125), as transport police officers are on duty at major rail stations to monitor travellers.

The UK government said masks can be homemade, such as a scarf or bandana.

Commuters were handed face-masks by volunteers in some train and subway stations in London.

The government changed its advice on face masks to help contain the spread of coronavirus earlier this month, as more people used public transport to go back to work.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said remembering to travel with a face covering should become part of people’s daily routine.

Meanwhile, a new study published Monday, co-led by University College London, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Haifa, suggests that making face coverings mandatory in public places, combined with effective testing and tracing, could dramatically cut the number of future deaths from COVID-19.

As many high schools in England also partially re-opened on Monday, thousands of students were heading back to classrooms, with smaller class sizes, for the first time in months.

The return of Years 10 and 12, the two secondary school year groups taking their GCSEs and A-levels next summer, is a mixed picture and not a return to full-time classes.

Based on government guidelines, only a quarter of pupils of the chosen years can be on site at a time.

According toauthorities, most schools in England may not fully reopen until September at the earliest.

In late May, primary schools in England began taking pupils from Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

It is estimated that in England at least 700,000 disadvantaged children lack access to computers or internet, which are crucial for them to continue their education remotely.

Apart from non-essential shops, the easing rules have also allowed zoos and safari parks across the country to re-open Monday.

Media reported that queues also formed at London Zoo, with daily sales limited to around 2,000 tickets.

The UK has so far reported 298,315 COVID-19 cases, with 41,821 deaths.