TYNE AND WEAR: Metro passengers urged to wear a face mask
A passenger using the new Metro smartphone ticket app, Image: Nexus
Metro passengers have been urged to wear a face mask as Covid-19 cases escalate, with less than 40% currently doing so.
The number of people wearing a face covering while on public transport has dropped significantly over recent months, as has been the case in shops and other locations across society.
Tyne and Wear Metro operator Nexus confirmed that well below half of its passengers are now wearing a mask, compared to above 90% when lockdown restrictions that had made it a legal requirement to do so were lifted in July.
But as Covid infections rise across the country, there have been calls in recent days for the government to shift to ‘Plan B’ and reimpose some measures, including mandating masks on public transport again.
While Nexus announced in July that it would still be compulsory to wear a face covering on Metro trains and it remains a ‘condition of carriage’, in practice that rule has not been enforced.
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon has urged people to do their bit to stop the virus spreading by wearing a mask now.
The Labour councillor, who chairs the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “I would encourage all passengers on public transport to continue wearing face coverings to help keep themselves and others safe. It continues to be a requirement for travelling on the Metro.
“Use of face coverings in busy places alongside measures such as hand sanitising and social distancing will help to keep the most vulnerable safe. We should all do our bit to help others as we recover from the ongoing impact of the pandemic.”
According to latest figures published by Newcastle City Council, the average infection rate across the North East has now risen to 501 Covid cases per 100,000 people, slightly higher than the England average of 473.
Huw Lewis, customer services director at Nexus, confirmed: “The number of people wearing face coverings on Metro has dropped to just under 40% on weekdays since the summer, when the Government relaxed national guidance.
“It is a similar picture with buses in North East England. We see more customers wearing a face covering in the morning peak and then again in the afternoon, when trains and buses are busiest, so I think people are carrying face masks and looking around at the space they are in when deciding whether to put them on.
“We still encourage people to wear face coverings on Metro station platforms and trains, but there is a lot of information around in general saying it is a personal choice so you see that reflected in how people behave in this country in shops and bars, in public spaces and on public transport.”
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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