Wear a mask or you’ll be on fast track to a fine, cross-border rail passengers warned

Passengers travelling on cross-border rail services will risk being fined if they refuse to put face masks on once trains pass into Scotland after July 19, police have confirmed.

British Transport Police said it would encourage travellers to put coverings on once they were over the border, once divergent rules come into force, adding they would enforce the law if required.

Boris Johnson has said that face masks will become a matter of personal responsibility in England once rules ease later this month. 

However, a legal requirement to wear them on public transport will remain in place until at least August 9 north of the border, while Wales is yet to decide on its approach.

The different rules mean that people will be able to travel for hundreds of miles without a face covering, but could then face fines of up to £60 if they refuse to put one on in Scotland, even if on an empty carriage.

A spokesman for British Transport Police said: "As has been the case throughout the pandemic our officers will continue with the ‘4Es’ approach of engage, explain, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce any Coronavirus legal requirements. 

"As our jurisdiction covers three countries our officers police different laws every day, including throughout the pandemic, and are used to dealing with any challenges this presents."

Meanwhile, pubs, restaurants and hotels employing more than 200,000 people vowed to scrap compulsory face coverings on England’s "Freedom Day", risking a clash with unions who warned the move could put staff at risk.

Businesses including Revolution Bars and Young’s Pub Group have said they will ditch the requirement for customers and employees to wear masks in their English sites from July 19, just hours after Boris Johnson announced that hospitality businesses will no longer legally have to enforce face coverings past that date.

Trade union resistance

However, the plans are likely to face fierce resistance from trade unions, which are pushing for companies to demand mask-wearing as part of efforts to protect staff.

Revolution boss Rob Pritcher said many of the bar group’s customers are under 30 years of age and therefore at greatly reduced risk of serious illness.

He said he expects many staff to also stop wearing masks, although employees and workers who want to keep them on will be free to do so.

Mr Pritcher said: "Our belief is that most of our guests want to see our team members’ smiling faces and that most of our team also want to be able to express themselves freely."

The comments were echoed by high-end restaurants and hotels which said they too were planning to make masks optional in their sites, including Corbin & King, which owns The Wolseley in Mayfair, as well as the bosses of Lympstone Manor in Devon, and The Pig, which owns a host of luxury hotels across the UK.

But workers’ groups are calling for a delay.

Paddy Lillis, the general secretary at shop workers’ union Usdaw, said: “This is too much too soon.

"The Government should not be weakening safety measures in shops at the same time as opening up other venues. There is no reason why requirements to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing in busy public areas like shops cannot continue."

Robin Hutson, boss of The Pig, said the business is to ditch masks in most areas but is weighing up whether to retain them in spa rooms where individuals are in confined spaces for an extended period of time.

He said: "The plan is to decide next week, but in any event, we will give staff the choice."

Others, such as supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, said it is yet to make a firm decision.

Weighing up the options

Simon Roberts , the chief executive officer of Sainsbury’s, hinted that the chain will not impose restrictions and said that it is weighing up "two very distinct points of view" among customers and staff.

He said: "One is customers and colleagues who can’t wait for the restrictions to lift and not to have to wear a mask for example, and others who are keen to continue to do that.

“I think in the end it will come down to the choices that individual customers and colleagues want to make. It is going to be driven by customer and by colleague choice."

Some well-known restaurateurs and pub bosses have suggested they will be more cautious.

Martin Williams, the chief executive officer and founder of Gaucho owner M Restaurants, said staff at its restaurants in England would no longer be "aggressively enforcing" a mask policy. 

However, he said the chain would "continue to implement most of our Covid-secure policies, to ensure that both our guests and our people can feel safe and fully relax in our venues and enjoy the world-class hospitality for which we are famed – this will include our staff continuing to wear masks".

Mr Williams said the restaurants would continue to test staff daily and keep tables more than a metre apart, but would "leave moral and personal responsibility to each individuals’ own judgement and needs".

Not a ‘free for all day’

Clive Watson, chairman of the City Pub Group, said "Freedom Day" should not be a "free for all day", and that staff at its sites will be asked to wear masks as best practice and customers would be encouraged to do so.

Meanwhile fashion retailer Primark has put its mask policy under review and said it is waiting for final guidance from the Government. 

Banks which had hoped to have everyone back after July 19 said they are now left in the dark and still need more guidance from the Government when it comes to returning to the office and wearing masks.

Goldman Sachs, which has already forced all of its US workers to return to their desk and hoped to do the same here this month, has not yet made a decision on its mask policy. 

Sam Smith, the chief executive officer of City stockbroker finnCapp, said her business is also yet to decide on masks. She added: "I think we will try and keep Covid safety practices in place for all of September and see what happens with infection rates. The main thing is people feeling comfortable."

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