Masks could still be required on Sheffield buses and trams after July 19

Sheffield’s tram and bus operators have yet to confirm whether passengers will be asked to wear masks after July 19.

By Alastair Ulke
Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 4:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 5:04 pm

The Prime Minister yesterday set out that, subject to a final decision next Monday, from July 19 the public will be expected to use their own judgement on how they manage the risks of coronavirus.

That means scrapping face mask laws and leaving it up to individuals to decide for themselves where, when and if they use masks as they “begin to learn to live with the virus”.

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However, it is unclear to what extent companies and service providers can enforce their own policy.

Today, Sheffield’s bus and tram operators said they could not offer a firm policy yet on whether they will ask customers to wear masks and observe social distancing.

In a statement, Stagecoach – which also operates the city’s Supertram service – said: "Following the Prime Minister's announcement, we are now working through the detail to understand what this means for our customers and employees and will provide further information in the coming days."

First South Yorkshire bus group echoed that it is “reviewing” its policies in light of the announcement and would announce if it makes any changes to “what is currently in place”.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire metro mayors Dan Jarvis and Tracy Brabin both voiced concerns over the change.

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin said: “In a recent study, the majority of passengers said they would lose confidence in using public transport if the wearing of facemasks was no longer a requirement to travel.

"Cases are rising sharply and lifting the requirement to wear masks now would put people at risk.

“We need to protect people from the debilitating effects of long-Covid whilst supporting businesses to better implement ventilation of their premises where required.”

It comes after the city’s director of public health Greg Fell told the Star yesterday that he “would continue to wear my mask” and “would encourage” other Sheffielders to do the same.

Mr Fell said: “I have been double vaccinated, as has much of Sheffield, but I can still carry the virus, I can still get poorly and I can still spread it to others.

"For what it’s worth I will continue to wear my mask and I would encourage Sheffield to do the same.”

The Prime Minster’s announcement has been criticised by the Confederation of Public Transport for “passing the buck” to operators and called the approach to face masks “confusing”.

Chief executive Graham Vidler said on Monday: “Today’s announcement that social distancing will end will allow buses to play a full role in the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

"However, this is being put at risk by the confusing announcement on face coverings which passes the buck to operators unfairly placing staff on the front line in managing disputes.

"If [scientists] advise face coverings are still required, then they should be mandated in all enclosed public spaces but if they are no longer required then there should be no guidance advising of their continued use.

"This confusion and mixed messaging will discourage people from travelling to work.”

Nationally, airlines easyJet and RyanAir said masks would continue to be mandatory on their flights, while chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty said wearing masks should be worn “as a common courtesy”.