The Mayor of London has appealed to the government for help as the capital struggles to stop people from travelling without face masks.
Sadiq Khan admitted “significant numbers” of Londoners are not wearing a face covering when travelling on public transport.
He told of his frustration at the fall in compliance among passengers travelling on buses and Tubes since Covid restrictions were lifted on July 19.
Despite being a condition of carriage on Transport for London services, face masks are no longer a legal requirement making it difficult for staff to enforce.
A mere 221 passengers were stopped from using transport services and 53 people were told to get off in the first seven weeks since national restrictions changed, the Guardian reports.
And reports suggest the number of passengers wearing masks on the underground has plummeted since August when TfL claimed around 82 per cent were sticking to its rules.
Speaking at the launch of the new Northern Line extension, Mr Khan said: “We continue to lobby the government to either bring back the national requirement for wearing face masks so we can use police and there is consistency, or help us pass a bylaw so we can use British Transport Police officers.”
Some commuters were seen without masks on the Tube network on Monday morning while others continued to wear them amid concerns over rising coronavirus cases.
The Mayor has openly backed compulsory face masks on public transport but said enforcing this as a condition of carriage on TfL services is not working.
Staff members are able to deny access or eject passengers found to be non-compliant while using the TfL network.
However, Mr Khan told of the challenges with only 400 enforcement officers covering 272 stations and 9,000 buses.
He even described the rule as an “imperfect solution” in July when it was introduced to tackle Covid transmission, despite the prime minister scrapping the measure.
“There’s a couple of things we can be doing which I think we’re not. One is I think we should have face masks compulsory on public transport,” he said.
“This voluntary system, this condition of carriage isn’t working as effectively as before.”
If we don’t wear masks, the virus will spread further. It’s as simple as that.
My mask protects you, your mask protects me – and face coverings remain compulsory on all Transport for London services.pic.twitter.com/HqAMAtF8vA
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) September 18, 2021
London Transport Commissioner Andy Byford confirmed the condition of carriage remains in place and thanked those who are complying.
“The coronavirus pandemic continues to be a part of our lives,” he said.
“In addition to these measures, face coverings remain a condition of carriage unless an exemption applies and we’re thankful to the majority of Londoners who are sticking to this requirement to help keep everyone safe.”
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