Masks will be compulsory on public transport in England from next week to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, transport minister Grant Shapps said Thursday.
“As of 15th June, face coverings will be mandatory on public transport,” he said at a daily briefing on the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The government had previously advised people to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces such as shops and public transport but stopped short of making them compulsory.
They remain only a recommendation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose devolved administrations have responsibility for transport.
The announcement was made as part of plans to ease lockdown restrictions in England, as infection rates and the number of deaths from COVID-19 falls.
A total of 39,904 people have died in the outbreak in Britain, according to the latest official figures, which is the second-highest toll in the world after the United States.
“We need to ensure every precaution is taken on buses, trains, aircraft and on ferries,” said Shapps, calling the use of face coverings a “condition of travel.”
Small children, the disabled and anyone with breathing difficulties would be exempt, he added.
“We expect the vast majority won’t need to be forced into this,” he said, but warned that anyone refusing to do so could be prevented from traveling or even fined.