July 19 spells the end for the vast majority of COVID-19 restrictions in the UK – marking the final step on a roadmap out of a national lockdown which has stretched on for seven months.
Social distancing is being stopped. Mass gatherings are being permitted. And nightclubs are all reopening. Life is apparently heading towards something resembling normality once again. But it’s all happening at a peculiar time.
COVID-19 cases are at their highest point since January – prompting some to argue that certain restrictions should remain in place.
The government has already postponed its ‘Freedom Day’ by a month – with the UK originally scheduled to come out of restrictions on June 21. But whilst infection rates continue to spike, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has argued that the reopening should now go ahead – stating that “if we couldn’t open up in the coming weeks, then when could we?”
The biggest point of contention, however, has remained the use of face coverings.
In most instances, the use of masks will no longer be a legal requirement past July 19 but rather a recommendation – with Transport Minister Grant Shapps announcing that transport companies can decide their own rules.
With that in mind, here are the restrictions for public transport in Manchester.
Face coverings will remain compulsory on Greater Manchester’s Metrolink service beyond July 19.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham confirmed earlier this week that wearing a mask will be required across the network until further notice.
Failure to comply with these Conditions of Carriage could see passengers refused travel and/or fined up to £100.
Burnham has also been working with other Mayors in England as part of a campaign to encourage the government to reverse its decision on masks nationwide – saying the “best solution is to continue the national requirement” for face coverings on all transport.
The Mayor stated: “There are around 200,000 people in Greater Manchester who are clinically vulnerable and I believe the Government’s decision to drop the requirement to wear face masks on public transport could put those people more at risk when using public transport, or force them off altogether.
“I do not believe they should be put in that unfair position.
“I have been listening to people’s concerns and, in response, have decided to continue to require the wearing of face coverings on Metrolink.”
Do I have to wear a mask on the bus or train?
It is up to the transport operator as to whether the use of masks will be enforced on buses or trains in Greater Manchester – as they do not fall under the remit of the Mayor.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), which represents major bus and coach operators such as National Express and Megabus, said it will not be making masks a requirement past July 19.
A CPT statement reads: “We expect that many people, especially in busy places, will follow the Prime Minister’s call to continue to wear a face covering as a courtesy to others.
“Passengers, though, will find it difficult to understand why the Prime Minister has singled out public transport as somewhere to wear a face covering when a range of other activities share its characteristics.
“We now need to see clear guidance for operators and customers but, in the absence of regulations, it is important that we respect everyone’s right to choose whether to wear a face covering.”
Train industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) announced that most domestic train operators, such as Avanti West Coast, TransPennine Express and Southeastern will not require passengers to use face coverings on board.
An RDG spokesman said: “Rail companies will ask people to follow the Government guidance and, out of respect for others, wear face coverings if an indoor setting is busy.
“Train travel is low-risk, with the majority of carriages well ventilated by air conditioning systems or by doors and windows.”
Eurostar, however, will ask passengers to continue wearing masks beyond July 19.
Do I have to wear a mask at the airport?
Most airports in the UK are asking all travellers to continue wearing face coverings unless they are exempt.
British Airways, EasyJet, Virgin and Ryanair, have specified that masks will be required on board their flights.