Coronavirus: Are people wearing face masks on public transport?

Wayne Withers
Image caption Coronavirus survivor Wayne Withers refuses to use public transport because of people "ignoring" rules on masks

Wearing face masks on public transport is not being enforced strongly enough, according to a coronavirus survivor.

Wayne Withers, 50, of Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taff, is refusing to use public transport because of large numbers of people "ignoring" the rules.

Face coverings are now compulsory on trains and buses in Wales.

Transport for Wales said staff were turning away passengers who do not have masks but bus company First Cymru said drivers would "avoid" refusing travel.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Face coverings have been mandatory on public transport in Wales since 27 July

For Mr Withers, the reality of coronavirus is all too familiar. He was taken to hospital when he contracted the virus in April and spent six weeks "fighting for every breath".

Now able to return to work, he would usually take the train to Cardiff but has stopped because it is "not safe".

"Last Friday coming back from Cardiff, of 13 people in the [carriage] I was the only one with a face covering," he said.

"Unfortunately it's not being policed in any way. British Transport Police are not walking any carriages and three [train] guards have told me they've been ordered not to walk the carriages."

Mr Withers says his experience with the disease made the lack of compliance even more frustrating.

"It's making me angry simply because I know what it's like to have this disease. I know what it's like to lay there thinking, 'Am I going to make it?'

"Then you have these groups of people with an absolutely contemptuous attitude to it."

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Media captionHow to wear a face mask

Transport for Wales said its staff have refused access to passengers not wearing masks, but enforcing fines was a matter for British Transport Police.

However International Relations Minister Eluned Morgan said enforcement was the responsibility of "both the transport and the police".

Transport for Wales said it had seen an overall 25% rise in passenger numbers since wearing masks became mandatory on 27 July and a "general increase" in compliance with wearing masks.

"If they're not [wearing masks] or haven't got any we have to turn them around," said safety director Leyton Powell.

"We recognise there are exceptions and not everybody, through certain health or medical reasons, can wear them, but can still travel."

British Transport Police said it would "support rail staff in engaging with passengers, explaining the importance of preventing the spread of the virus and encouraging people to wear face coverings".

It said officers would issue fixed penalty notice fines for breaching the regulations "as a very last resort".

What do passengers think?

Image caption This passenger at Swansea bus station said all those on her bus were wearing a mask

Most people waiting at Swansea bus station believed the majority of passengers were following the rules.

"I go in the morning to work and everyone is wearing a mask," said one commuter. "And if you're not wearing one, the drivers will tell you."

Another said everyone was complying but added: "It's a little but uncomfortable to wear and if you're wearing glasses you can get fogged up."

Image caption Gloria Jones said drivers had been insisting passengers wore masks

"A lady wanted to get on this morning with no mask and the driver turned her away and wouldn't let her on," said Gloria Jones.

"I've also seen on the bus a gentleman coming on the bus and [the driver] told him to put it over his nose as well as his mouth."

First Cymru said its drivers have been told to avoid refusing travel and it had received only two reports of people refusing to wear masks.

"The reports are we've got a high standard of compliance," said head of operations Mark Jacobs.

"We try to avoid refusing travel [because] we don't want anyone vulnerable at the side of the road.

"But we also want our customers to heed the advice the government are giving out. Should somebody be persistent in not wishing to wear the mask then our drivers may refuse entry. Then there's a risk of conflict and obviously we also need to consider our drivers' safety."

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