Thank you for contacting me about the wearing of face coverings in public places. This is something I am also worried about, and I have recently written to Transport Operating Companies, the Rail Delivery Group and The Department for Transport to raise my concerns.
While COVID-19 continues to circulate and with the risk of infections surging again, the Government should not have removed the requirement to wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces, such as public transport. I believe it should reverse its decision.
Following its original announcement that masks would no longer be required, the Government has since said that it “expects and recommends that face coverings are worn in crowded and enclosed spaces”. I think these mixed messages are confusing and not the leadership the public wants.
Masks do not restrict freedoms in a pandemic, but when so much virus is circulating, they ensure that everyone who goes to the shops or takes public transport can do so safely. If nobody is masked, COVID-19 risk increases and we are all less safe; especially those who have been shielding and are anxious.
Masks are effective because we know the virus is airborne. And studies suggest face coverings can cut the risk of contracting COVID-19 by up to 70%.
We all want to see restrictions end, but we should not have to take a high-risk approach. Getting back to normal depends on people feeling safe, but I know that many are instead feeling particularly anxious. I am hugely concerned that people who are shielding, who may be immunocompromised, or for whom the vaccination is less effective, face having their freedoms curtailed because of this step. There are also many other people who suffer when masks are not required, such as those working on public transport or in supermarkets – many of whom may be low-paid and without access to decent sick pay.
Face coverings protects others. We should keep masks for now, fix sick pay and let us unlock in a safe and sustainable way.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue, I will continue to provide updates on my correspondence with ministers and transport companies.