COVID-19: UK advises people to use face masks on public transport

AgenciesUpdated: Monday, May 11, 2020, 09:48 PM IST

London: A latest document setting out the UK government's guidelines for the "modest" easing of lockdown measures in place to curb the spread of coronavirus from Monday has added advice for people to use face coverings on public transport.

While the devolved administration of Scotland already recommends the use of face masks in public, this is the first time that the UK government has made it a part of its set of guidelines for the "conditional plan" announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday night to track and trace the deadly virus.

"As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people's immediate household," notes the advice within a 50-page document setting out details of a planned timetable for lifting COVID-19 restrictions.

"This increased mobility means the government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops," it reads.

As Johnson sets out in his weekend speech and a Parliament statement on Monday, the government is proposing a three step plan.

In step one, starting on Wednesday, workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open, and workplaces should follow new "COVID-19 Secure" guidelines.

The government is also urging more vulnerable children, who are already able to attend school, to do so.

In step two, which will begin no earlier than June 1, nurseries and primary schools will begin a phased return.

At first this will only involve early years, reception, and years one and six.

But the government's ambition is that all primary school children in England should return to school for a month before the summer.

Some businesses will be able to reopen and sporting events will be able to take place behind closed doors - but not hairdressers or beauty salons.

The government is seeking advice on allowing people to expand their household group and examining how small weddings can be better facilitated.

In step three, which will start no earlier than July 4, more businesses will be able to open - although some, which are crowded by design, will not be able to open.

Under Johnson's conditional plan, all these dates could be delayed if not enough progress is made in tackling the virus, with restrictions reintroduced to prevent a so-called second peak of the virus.

In further guidance, the document says it is likely that the government will continue to advise people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to continue to shield beyond June.

The government has faced criticism over the latest set of guidelines, which have been branded as vague.

Opposition Labour Leader Keir Starmer said the UK PM's new guidelines were "unravelling" and "a bit all over the place".

The changes in guidelines will also allow two people from different households to meet in a park if they stay two-metres apart.

The government's new "Stay Alert" system allows people unlimited exercise in the outdoors instead of just once a day under the previous "Stay at Home" message.

However, there is much confusion over what exactly is involved.

The Police Federation for England and Wales has warned that ambiguity of the new measures for England would be "grossly unfair on officers", as the fines imposed on those breaking social distancing norms are set to rise from 60 pounds to 100 pounds in England from Wednesday.

"Police officers will continue to do their best, but their work must be based on crystal clear guidance, not loose rules that are left open to interpretation - because that will be grossly unfair on officers whose job is already challenging," said John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation.

"If the message of what is expected of the public is not clear, then it will make the job of policing this legislation almost impossible," he said.

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