Mandatory face masks to stay in string of English cities as mayors stage mass revolt

A passenger wearing a mask on the Tyne and Wear Metro – when they will remain compulsory (Image: Craig Connor/ChronicleLive)

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Face masks will remain mandatory in certain transport settings in a string of English cities after mayors staged a revolt.

The mayors of Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North of Tyne and West of England all blasted Boris Johnson's decision to axe compulsory face coverings from Monday.

In a damning joint press conference, they announced face masks will remain compulsory in the parts of local transport networks that they have control over, despite the Prime Minister's 'Freedom Day' on July 19.

That means the coverings will now be a "condition of carriage" on the London Underground and buses; all Metrolink trams in Greater Manchester; and the Tyne and Wear Metro.

They will also be mandatory in bus stations in South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.

But the leaders complained there will now be a bizarre patchwork of rules.

Because they don't have control over local buses or mainline trains, masks will not be compulsory on those actual services.

Only London's buses will have compulsory masks because Transport for London is overseen by the capital's mayor Sadiq Khan.

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The mayors united to demand Boris Johnson stages a late U-turn and bring back compulsory masks on public transport across England.

"The mixed messages from government risk making public transport a no-go area for the vulnerable," fumed South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis.

"A national mandate would no doubt be less confusing for passengers – and more effective."

West of England mayor Dan Norris – who said he will only be able to "encourage" mask wearing with a local campaign – added it was a "ridiculous mismatch" of rules across the UK that was "nonsensical and crazy".

It means Boris Johnson is now facing a mass revolt from Labour and SNP leaders across the UK over his decision to axe compulsory masks, and only "recommend" them instead.

Last night London mayor Sadiq Khan announced masks would remain compulsory on all TfL services as a condition of carriage.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham warned Freedom Day would be "fear day" for millions of vulnerable people
(Image: PA)

And both Scotland and Wales have said they will keep face mask laws in place to protect the vulnerable.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who previously said a patchwork of guidance would be confusing, said he was "inundated" with messages warning Freedom Day would be "fear day" for millions of vulnerable people.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people have been advised to avoid crowded indoor spaces and unvaccinated people, and to only go shopping at quieter times of day.

"One person’s choice not to wear one on a bus or a tram could affect the physical and mental health of passengers nearby," Mr Burnham said. He added: "We do not believe they should be put in that position."

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin said: "I’d like to include buses and trains but we can only do what’s in our power.

"I’m asking the government – please listen to the public and put the vulnerable first."

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin said: "I’m asking the government – please listen to the public and put the vulnerable first"
(Image: Daily Mirror)

Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram said he was "hitting brick walls" in efforts to get private bus and train operators to make masks mandatory on their services.

He said he would continue to push them and the government, saying: "Wearing face masks costs nothing. It doesn’t damage businesses – if anything, it helps build confidence."

Earlier Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would support decisions to make masks compulsory on regional transport networks – despite his own Government scrapping the mandatory wearing of face coverings.

He claimed Mr Khan's move was "very much in line" with what ministers wanted to happen, despite Boris Johnson's decision to lift legal restrictions in England next Monday.

Mr Khan said he was forced to act because of the Government's decision to lift restrictions.

He 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'.

He told the BBC: "Personal responsibility is all well and good, but what about the responsibility you have to others? We know a face mask does reduces transmission to others. It’s the most unselfish thing you can do”.

City leaders across the rest of England do not have the same powers but are understood to have been in talks with local transport operators about encouraging passengers to wear masks.

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

He 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."

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