Greater Manchester Mayor urges residents to keep wearing face masks on public transport
Face coverings will continue to be mandatory on Metrolink but the mayor does not have the power to compel it on buses and trains.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham held a press conference with a number of other regional elected first citizens on Wednesday afternoon to speak about their concerns over the Government relaxing the requirement from Monday.
Mr Burnham said he had been "inundated" by messages from people who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) alarmed at the prospect of face coverings no longer having to be worn and considering not using public transport at all from the start of next week.
He said he was doing what he can to ensure masks are still worn on the city-region's public transport systems within the limits of the powers he has.
He hoped that keeping in place the rule that masks have to be worn on the trams would make it more likely residents will keep them on when using buses or trains as well.
Passengers using bus stations and interchanges will also be required to wear face coverings unless exempt.
Residents taking taxis or private hire vehicles are also being strongly recommended to carry on wearing masks.
Mr Burnham said: "We all have concerns about the Government's plans for the relaxation of the wearing of face coverings of the public transport.
"It is important to stress that we do support the need to reopen our economy and return to a more normal life, but we need to do that as safely as we can.
"We are still in the pandemic and we need to think in terms of collective safety rather than individual freedom or personal responsibility.
"We take actions not just for ourselves but because we impact on the health of others, particularly when we are in enclosed spaces.
"I have been struck by a number of concerns from people who are clinically extremely vulnerable who feel they will be more at risk on public transport or forced off it altogether.
"We don't believe they should be put in that position.
"I am encouraging residents to support these people to get out and about and wear your mask. It's a minor inconvenience and it allows us to reopen more things next week with that bit more reassurance for those who are most at risk.
"We remain of the view that the best solution is for the Government to maintain the use of face coverings on all modes of public transport and we call on them to return to that.
"This is about us all working together to protect the health of our fellow citizens so they can continue going about their lives, going to essential appointments at hospital or doing their shopping."
Measures to keep face coverings on parts of the public transport system were also announced by the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, the Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin, the Mayor of North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll, the Mayor of the West of England, Dan Norris and the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis.
They acknowledged the patchwork of requirements in place could prove confusing for the public but said this was because they all had different powers and could not simply order face masks to keep being worn on all public transport like the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is able to do.
They also hit out at the Government for not keeping its national policies, saying they were having to do what they could locally to help protect people.
The press conference heard that a YouGov poll found 71 per cent of people asked were in favour of face coverings continuing to be needed when travelling on public transport.
All of the changes will be kept under continual review and any changes will be led by science and public safety considerations, Mr Burnham said.
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