Uber drivers and passengers will still have to wear face masks from Monday despite relaxation of Covid laws
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Uber has become the latest transport company to announce that face coverings will remain mandatory on its services in England from Monday.
The minicab hailing app said drivers and passengers will continue to be required to wear a mask even though they will no longer be needed by law in England.
Its announcement comes after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan this week confirmed passengers on London tubes and buses will have to wear coverings after ‘Freedom Day’.
And a host of supermarkets including Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Waitrose also said they will encourage customers and shop workers to continue wearing masks.
Uber has become the latest transport company to announce that face coverings will remain mandatory on its services in England from Monday
The coronavirus restrictions which will be removed from July 19
England’s mask shambles descended further into farce today as police officers were told to keep wearing them after Monday’s end to lockdown.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has written to all forces advising that existing infection control measures should continue, despite face coverings no longer being required by law.
It came after the Government’s own advice to businesses on reopening work premises from July 19 last night recommended bosses encourage the wearing of masks indoors.
The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have also said they will keep laws requiring masks to be worn in most indoor settings after their loosen their own lockdowns next week.
And London mayor Sadiq Khan has already ruled that masks will be required on London transport.
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said today that Boris Johnson’s decision to make masks optional in England – and rely on the common sense of the public – was an ‘outlier’ and it would be better if England followed his and Nicola Sturgeon’s example.
But Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick today insisted that as the vaccine rollout continues it is right to allow individuals and businesses to make their own judgments about what precautions to take.
Ash Kebriti, UK general manager for Uber, said: ‘There is nothing more important than the safety of our drivers and the riders who use the Uber app.
‘As cities continue to open up, we will ensure that face coverings or masks continue to be a mandatory requirement, unless exempt, when travelling with Uber across the UK.’
In London, the face mask requirement will apply to journeys and stations on Transport for London services including the Tube, bus, tram, Docklands Light Railway, Overground and TfL Rail as part of the conditions of carriage.
They will also remain compulsory on trams in Greater Manchester and Tyne and Wear, and in bus stations operated by the combined authorities in West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.
Cross-Channel train firm Eurostar, airlines such as British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair, plus Heathrow Airport will continue to require passengers to wear face coverings.
Heathrow Express, which operates services to London Paddington, said face coverings will remain mandatory.
But all other train companies such as Avanti West Coast, TransPennine Express and Southeastern, plus major bus and coach companies including National Express and Megabus, will not demand mask-wearing from Monday.
A recent YouGov survey suggested 71 per cent of people believe face coverings should continue to be mandatory on public transport after Monday.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, has warned that many passengers will be unsure what to do.
He said: ‘We know people are divided between not wanting to wear face coverings, and not wanting to travel if they aren’t worn.
‘The lack of consistency on rules is going to cause some uncertainty and confusion. It could also make enforcement trickier. Clear information before and during journeys will be key.’
Uber’s move to make masks compulsory comes despite SAGE adviser Professor Graham Medley, chairman of the modelling group Spi-B, this week said wearing masks voluntarily ‘probably won’t do any good’ unless people are forced to.
There is enough evidence to show masks offer at least some protection against catching and spreading Covid but the extend of this protection is still unknown.
Speaking about the move to drop masks from next week, Professor Medley yesterday backed the idea of keeping masks mandatory.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme: ‘I understand the Government’s reluctance to actually mandate it.
‘But on the other hand, if it’s not mandated it probably won’t do any good.’
He added: ‘I personally will wear a mask to protect other people. I think it’s quite a reasonable thing to do.
It doesn’t have a huge imposition in terms of economic impact or in terms of freedom, and I think there is evidence to suggest it does good, but only if everybody does it.’
‘So I think that, without the mandation, then we end up with a situation where even if the majority of people, let’s say 70 per cent of people wear a mask, will that actually do any good because of the 30 per cent who don’t?
‘I think that is something which still needs to be determined and discussed.’
WHAT HAVE STUDIES SHOWN ABOUT FACE MASKS AND COVID?
Research on how well various types of masks and face coverings protect against coronavirus has varied but experts and politicians have generally leaned towards the idea that the chance of some protection is better than none.
In the UK, face coverings were first made mandatory in for public transport in June and later for shops and other indoor spaces in July.
Here’s what studies have shown so far about whether masks work:
FACE MASKS LOWER VIRUS R RATE (JANUARY 2021)
Researchers at Boston University in the US found wearing face masks is an effective way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The study, published in the journal Lancet Digital Health, found a 10 per cent rise in self-reported mask wearing is associated with a three-fold increase in the odds of keeping the R number – the number of others each person with coronavirus infects – below 1.
Co-author of the study Ben Rader, of Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston University, said: ‘An important finding of this research is that mask wearing is not a replacement for physical distancing.’
INFECTIOUS DROPLETS WILL STILL SLIP THROUGH (DECEMBER 2020)
Scientists at New Mexico State University in the US found wearing a cloth mask may not shield the user totally from coronavirus because infected droplets can slip through, but it would significantly reduce how many.
‘Wearing a mask will offer substantial, but not complete, protection to a susceptible person,’ said Dr Krishna Kota, an associate professor at the university who led the research.
The study found while all masks blocked at least 95 per cent of droplets from coughs and sneezes – there was still a risk of the disease being passed on.
A MASK ‘WILL ALWAYS BE BETTER THAN NOTHING’ (DECEMBER 2020)
Research by the University of Massachusetts Lowell and California Baptist University in the US found wearing a used three-layer surgical mask can reduce the number of small droplets that are released into the air by two thirds.
Co-author Dr Jinxiang Xi said: ‘It is natural to think that wearing a mask, no matter new or old, should always be better than nothing.
‘Our results show that this belief is only true for particles larger than five micrometers, but not for fine particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers.’
MASK-WEARERS EQUALLY LIKELY TO CATCH VIRUS (NOVEMBER 2020)
A study by Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark suggested face masks may only offer the wearer limited protection against Covid infection.
Researchers found there was no statistically significant difference in the number of people who contacted the virus in a group wearing masks in public compared to a group that did not do so.
The study was carried out in April and May when Danish authorities did not recommend wearing face coverings.
MASK LEADS TO THOUSANDS FEWER COUGH DROPLETS (AUGUST 2020)
Research by Edinburgh University in Scotland suggested cloth face masks are effective at reducing the amount of droplets spread by coughing or sneezing.
The findings suggest a person standing two metres from someone coughing without a mask is exposed to 10,000 times more droplets than from someone standing half a metre away wearing a basic single layer mask.
Professor Paul Digard, of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, said: ‘The simple message from our research is that face masks work.
‘Wearing a face covering will reduce the probability that someone unknowingly infected with the virus will pass it on.’
N95 MEDICAL MASKS COULD PREVENT 99% OF SPREAD (AUGUST 2020)
A study by Duke University in North Carolina, US, found N95 masks are the most effective masks at reducing the spread of Covid-19.
The research published in the journal Science Advances, studied 14 types of face coverings.
Co-author Dr Eric Westman said: ‘If everyone wore a mask, we could stop up to 99 percent of these droplets before they reach someone else.
‘In the absence of a vaccine or antiviral medicine, it’s the one proven way to protect others as well as yourself.’
SURGICAL COVERINGS JUST AS GOOD AS N95 MASKS (MARCH 2020)
A University of Oxford study published on March 30 last year concluded that surgical face masks are just as effective at preventing respiratory infections as N95 respirators for doctors, nurses and other health care workers.
N95 respirators are made of thick, tightly woven and moulded material that fits tightly over the face and can stop 95 percent of all airborne particles, while surgical masks are thinner, fit more loosely, and more porous.
The Oxford analysis of past studies – which has not yet been peer reviewed – found that surgical masks were worth wearing but any face mask is only as good as other health and hygiene practices.
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