Industry reacts: lockdown end date announced
Mandates on social distancing and face coverings on transport, and elsewhere in society, are due to end from 19 July.
Despite the hospitality industry welcoming the upcoming change, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement has caused some confusion and worry in the transport sector. In particular, there is concern surrounding face coverings on transport, with the legal requirement for them no longer in place from the proposed date.
During the announcement of the final stage of unlocking society, Johnson said: “We will end the one-metre-plus rule on social distancing, and the legal obligation to wear a face covering, although guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so, especially when cases are rising, and where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed places, such as obviously crowded public transport.”
In a statement to Parliament on the next stage out of the final stage out of lockdown, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, said: “It will no longer be a legal requirement to wear face coverings in any setting, including on public transport – although we advise this as a voluntary measure for crowded and enclosed spaces.”
CPT Chief Executive, Graham Vidler, said the announcement that social distancing will end will allow buses to play a full role in the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
“This confusion and mixed messaging will discourage people from travelling” – Graham Vidler, CPT Chief Executive
He added: “However, this is being put at risk by the confusing announcement on face coverings which passes the buck to operators unfairly placing staff on the front line in managing disputes.
“Operators have worked hard to make bus and coach travel safe during the pandemic and the Government should make it clear what the science is now telling them. If it advises face coverings are still required, then they should be mandated in all enclosed public spaces but if they are no longer required then there should be no guidance advising of their continued use.
“This confusion and mixed messaging will discourage people from travelling to work, to the shops or from visiting visitor attractions across the country, making it harder for local economies to bounce back and for bus and coach to play a role in reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality by taking cars off our roads.”
Among those backing not abandoning requirements for face coverings are transport unions, including the TSSA.
“When it comes to public transport Johnson’s mixed messaging is the worst of all worlds” – TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes
TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “We are still very much in a pandemic, something that the scientists in Downing Street recognise, even if the Prime Minister seems not to. Opening up on this scale while infection rates are rising is simply gambling with lives.
“Johnson risks the virus mutating into variants which may become resistant to the current vaccines by taking a gung ho approach to the relaxation of restrictions.
“Let’s not forget that throughout Europe where restrictions have been relaxed the requirement to wear a mask in enclosed public settings remains. Just look at Gibraltar whose vaccination record is second to none and has rightly been praised by the government here.
“When it comes to public transport Johnson’s mixed messaging is the worst of all worlds. He wants to ditch masks but would still wear one if on a busy train. That hardly provides the certainty our industry and the public so badly need.”
The Government mandate to work from home where possible is due to end from 19 July. This could potentially see an increase in public transport use.
Border controls will still be in place from 19 July. However, recognising the protection afforded by two doses of vaccine, the Government is to work with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate on return from an ‘amber’ country. The Transport Secretary is due to provide a further update later this week.
The decision to move ahead with the removal of all restrictions is due to be confirmed on 12 July.