FACE coverings will become mandatory on public transport from Friday, 10 July as part of the recovery process from Covid-19, to support efforts to reduce the risk of transmission.
From this date passengers travelling on most bus, train and ferry services in Northern Ireland will be required to wear a face covering. Face coverings will also be required in public transport stations.
There will be exemptions for those who are not able to wear a face covering for health and medical reasons, and for children under the age of 13. Outdoor areas of a ferry where social distancing can be maintained will be exempt from the requirements, along with school transport.
The Executive has agreed that the cross-departmental group that has been established to consider face coverings will engage with the tour coach and taxi industry to explore extending the requirement to these transport modes.
Making the announcement, Minister Nichola Mallon said: “As we move through the Executive’s recovery plan, more and more of the economy and society is opening up. We must remember however that Covid-19 is still with us. We need to remain vigilant and continue to play our part in controlling the virus to protect ourselves and others.
“As restrictions on our movement are eased, the safety of passengers and staff remains my priority. The evidence suggests that you can reduce the risk of spreading the virus by wearing a face covering. That is why, with the support of my Executive colleagues and the unions, I am announcing that face coverings will be mandatory on public transport, from Friday July 10th.
“The requirement will apply to passengers and also staff in public areas who are not protected by a screen. However, there will be exemptions for those who are not able to wear a face covering for specific health and medical reasons.”
A face covering is a covering of any type which covers a person’s nose and mouth; it does not have to be a surgical face mask.
While face coverings can offer protection to others, they are not a substitute for other protective measures and it is important that people continue to follow social distancing and wash or sanitise hands regularly.
Minister Mallon continued: “We are asking you to take personal responsibility and do the right thing to protect the health and well-being of others. The fact of the matter is you can spread the virus to other more vulnerable people without even knowing you have it. By wearing a face covering you are showing your support and consideration for other passengers and staff.
“It is important to be aware that wearing face coverings will not be suitable for all members of the public and we need to be sensitive to this and know that reasons for not wearing a face covering may not always be visible.
“Advice will be available on nidirect and social media channels. Translink staff will begin preparing commuters for the requirement to wear face coverings.
“It is also important that you do not get a false sense of security about the level of protection a face covering offers. They are not a substitute for social distancing or good hand hygiene. While I know many will find it challenging in the coming days and weeks to keep up compliance with the rules, I want to applaud the public for their leadership. The public have done the heavy lifting and kept us all safe. You have been the leaders in Northern Ireland fighting Covid-19 and I am asking you to keep it up and we will beat this together.
“By acting together and thinking of each other we can reduce the risk of transmission.”