95% of Metro passengers wearing masks as new covid rules come into force
Up to 95% of Tyne and Wear Metro passengers wore face masks on the day that they became mandatory again, bosses have revealed.
Covid rules making face coverings a requirement on public transport and shops were reintroduced on Tuesday, as a precautionary measure due to the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus.
Operator Nexus said that compliance with the strict new guidance was as high as 95% on Metro carriages during the morning rush hour and anecdotal reports suggest it remained high throughout the day, while staff were also on hand at some stations to give out free masks.
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There was already thought to have been an increase in the number of commuters wearing masks following Boris Johnson’s announcement of the measures over the weekend, but Tuesday marked an even more significant shift.
Just a month ago, it was reported that below 40% of Metro passengers were still wearing a mask.
Customer services director at Nexus, Huw Lewis, said: “We have seen a marked increase in the use of face coverings on Metro today following the Government decision to make them a legal requirement in busy public spaces, including on public transport.
“We all now need to wear face masks in busy places including shops and public transport, and Metro customers have responded to that. From what I saw on Metro during the busy morning peak it felt like everybody who could wear a face covering was certainly doing so, around 95% of our customers.”
He added: “Our employees will be encouraging and explaining to customers the importance of face coverings, and people will see some targeted operations in areas where we feel face covering levels are not as high as they could be, such as later in the day.
“Face coverings are a simple step that everyone can take to protect you and your family’s health and that of other people in the community. If you are making a journey on any mode of public transport then the Government is clear you have to wear a face covering unless you have a medical exemption.”
Unless exempt from doing so, anyone travelling on public transport without a mask on could be fined £200 by the police – with the penalty rising up to £6,400 for repeat offenders.
Face coverings were previously mandatory on public transport from the start of the pandemic until restrictions were relaxed in July.
It has remained a ‘condition of carriage’ to wear a mask on the Metro and passengers not doing so were warned that they could be refused travel, but in practice that rule was not enforced.