Boris Johnson today extended the mandatory use of masks and pledged a ‘greater police presence’ after it emerged officers fined just 13 people for not wearing face coverings on public transport in a two-week period last month.
The Prime Minister demanded masks be worn in galleries, cinemas and places of worship, as well as in shops and on trains and buses, while insisting the police will have to ensure the rules are enforced.
It comes as MailOnline reveals officers only handed out a handful of penalties to passengers not wearing masks on public transport in the two weeks after the law was changed – and just one outside the south-east.
Boris Johnson today extended the mandatory use of masks and pledged a ‘greater police presence’
Mr Johnson said today the extension of the requirement to wear a face covering ‘to other indoor settings where you are likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet’ will apply from August 8.
The PM insisted that ‘most people in this country are following the rules’ but he had asked Home Secretary Priti Patel to ‘work with the police and others to ensure the rules which are already in place are properly enforced’.
He added: ‘It means a greater police presence to ensure face coverings are being worn where this is required by law.’
Face coverings became mandatory on trains, buses, Tubes, coaches, trams, planes and ferries on June 15, with ministers warning that police and transport staff have the power to fine rule-breakers £100, or they can throw them off the service.
However, despite well-publicised reminders and warnings that action could be taken, passengers have regularly been seen travelling without a mask over the last six-and-a-half weeks.
In the last fortnight alone, officers have had to stop nearly 29,000 people not wearing a face covering.
Since June, police have had the ability to fine passengers on public transport who are not wearing an appropriate face mask
British Transport Police (BTP) insisted last month it had fined people flouting the regulations, despite Transport for London saying those travelling without a mask were being given time to ‘understand’ the new rules.
The force, as well as train companies up and down the country, has always said issuing penalties was a ‘last resort’.
Now, data obtained by MailOnline shows a mere 13 fines were issued by officers in just over two weeks from when the new rules were first introduced until the end of that month.
The first two were handed out on the Tube on June 18, at Stratford and Canada Water Underground stations.
This was followed by action at Queens Road Peckham, Lewisham, Wimbledon Underground, Guildford, Blackheath, Woolwich Arsenal, London Victoria Underground and Camden Town Underground.
The only fine issued outside the south-east of England in that time came on June 26, when officers penalised a passenger at Liverpool Central.
And despite the rules being in force for well over a month now, thousands still don’t appear to be getting the message.
BTP officers stopped 28,964 passengers who weren’t wearing a mask and thrown 1,605 people off services between July 13 and July 25.
Londoners have received the majority of fines for not wearing face masks on public transport, with 12 of the 13 penalties issued in June coming in the south-east
Some arrests have also been made, though the force has not disclosed how many.
A spokesperson said: ‘Our approach is to always begin by engaging with the public and explain the reasons why the protections are necessary and a lawful requirement.
‘Since face coverings became mandatory on public transport our officers have spoken with thousands of passengers, encouraging them to wear face coverings whilst travelling.
‘The overwhelming majority of people have listened, complied, and continued to play an important role in protecting other passengers and rail staff – we have seen compliance levels of around 97 per cent.
‘In those cases where people have refused to comply with the requirement, and they don’t have a valid exemption or reasonable excuse, officers have taken action by refusing entry to trains, directing passengers to leave services, and as a last resort, issuing fixed penalty notices. In a few cases, arrests have been made.’
Thousands of face masks were handed out to Tube and train passengers across England after it became compulsory to wear them on all forms of public transport to reduce coronavirus infection rates.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that face coverings would be mandatory last month, saying ‘Why wouldn’t people want to do the right thing? We are all desperate to get rid of coronavirus’
Only children under the age of 11 and those with certain health conditions or disabilities are exempt from having to don a mask.
Announcing the rules last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the ‘challenges’ for the network were ‘increasing’ as more people go back to work and schools and shops reopen.
‘We are doing what many other countries have asked transport users to do,’ he said. ‘The evidence is that wearing face coverings offers some, albeit limited protection.’
Mr Shapps said while the rules would be mandatory and ‘ultimately’ people could be fined, he did not believe they would need much enforcement.
‘Wearing a face covering helps protect others,’ he said. ‘Why wouldn’t people want to do the right thing? We are all desperate to get rid of coronavirus.’
Since then, masks have been made compulsory in shops – a rule Boris Johnson admitted could remain in force even until next summer.