London transport mask policy ‘in line with’ Government’s thinking, says Shapps

The Transport Secretary has supported a decision to make masks compulsory on the London Underground, despite his own Government scrapping the mandatory wearing of face coverings.

Grant Shapps said the move is “very much in line” with what ministers want to happen, despite Boris Johnson’s decision to lift legal restrictions in England next Monday.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was forced to act to make masks a condition of carriage across the capital’s transport network because of the Government’s decision to lift restrictions.

It comes as leading medics called for face masks to be mandatory in healthcare settings.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, the British Medical Association, British Dental Association, Royal College of Nursing and the College of Optometrists called for mandatory use of face masks, social distancing and regular handwashing by the public to stay in place past July 19 in all healthcare settings.

Mr Khan said he was “not prepared” to put Tube, tram and bus users in the capital “at risk” by removing the rules on face coverings after so-called “freedom day”.

Under the terms of use, enforcement officers would be able to deny access or eject passengers found to be non-compliant while using the Transport for London network.

Mr Shapps backed the move and ministers have urged a cautious approach once restrictions are lifted in England on Monday.

The Transport Secretary told Sky News: “Whilst we are going from this being a legal requirement to guidelines, we do expect individual carriers to make sure they are putting in place whatever is appropriate for their network.”

He added: “The airlines have already said that you will need to carry on wearing masks on those. It is very much in line with what we expected – indeed wanted – to happen.”

Mr Khan told ITV’s Good Morning Britain the London-wide rule was an “imperfect solution” but was necessary because “we don’t have national backing”.

“The Government for their own reasons have decided not to do that,” he told the BBC.

Boris Johnson would have risked another damaging Tory revolt in the Commons if he had sought to maintain the legal order to wear face coverings.

The requirement will mean passengers on all TfL services, which includes the Tube, bus, tram, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), Overground and TfL Rail, need to continue to wear a face covering in stations and for the duration of their journey unless they are exempt.

Mr Khan has also asked TfL to put measures in place to help ensure the continued use of masks in taxis and private hire vehicles by both drivers and passengers unless they are exempt.

Hydrogen fuel cell double decker buses
Sadiq Khan said masks will remain mandatory on the capital’s transport network (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Meanwhile the letter to Mr Johnson from leading healthcare workers states: “With continued pressures on staff and rising case rates, the use of face masks, social distancing and regular handwashing by the public must stay in place.

“The use of respiratory protection for staff in health and care settings must continue, alongside improvements in ventilation wherever possible.

“While you state that you would expect the public to continue wearing face coverings in healthcare settings, we ask that this is translated into action.

“As the rules change, this must be backed by clear Government communications for the public, so that health and care staff are not caught in the middle and placed at increased risk of abuse.”

Elsewhere, reports claim popular Spanish holiday islands are in danger of being moved on to the amber list only a fortnight after being approved for quarantine-free travel.

The Balearic islands, including tourist hotspots Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca, could be set to be moved off the green watchlist – destinations the Government considers safe for travel but which could potentially be downgraded to the amber list.

Those travelling to amber listed countries, such as mainland Spain, have to self-isolate for 10 days on their return to England.

However, as of July 19 the requirement to quarantine will be scrapped for the fully vaccinated and those aged under 18.

People arriving in the UK from green list destinations are not required to self-isolate.

The Sun, which first reported the alleged travel change, quoted a source saying: “It’s all still up for discussion, but the figures aren’t great which is why it was on the watch list in the first place.”

Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast: “We review these every three weeks. I hope we have made very clear to everybody when booking trips at the moment there is always the chance that countries will move around.

“Some countries may go to the red list, some countries may go to the green, but some may move the other way to the amber list.

“It is a fact of life that they will continue to move around as the virus continues to develop and change globally.”

The UK is battling its own summer spike in cases, with a further 36,660 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases reported as of 9am on Tuesday.

Government data also recorded a further 50 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus as of Tuesday – the highest day-on-day increase since April 9 – taking the country’s total to 128,481.

It comes as a couple were barred from making a trip to Malta due to having been given an Indian-made batch of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, according to The Daily Telegraph.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

The Prime Minister has previously stated he was “very confident” it would not cause an issue, but Steve and Glenda Hardy, 64 and 63, told the newspaper they were turned back at Manchester airport at 3.30am on Friday when they tried to board a flight to Malta.

The problem centres on doses made by the Serum Institute of India being known as Covishield.

Despite it being the same as other AstraZeneca vaccines, it has not been authorised by Europe’s regulator and is therefore not recognised by the EU.

Mr Shapps said the UK would be taking up the issue with the Maltese authorities.

“It is not right and it shouldn’t be happening,” he said.

“The medicines agency, the MHRA, have been very clear that it doesn’t matter whether the AstraZeneca you have is made here or the Serum Institute in India, it is absolutely the same product, it provides exactly the same levels of protection from the virus.”