Daily briefing with Grant Shapps and Peter Hendy – face coverings will become mandatory on public transport from 15 June 2020
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps updates on the latest data, presents the slides and makes a number of key points. He says the 'careful and deliberate approach' has been central to restarting public transport, and outlines previous measures. He expects the next easing of restrictions on 15 June 2020 (conditions permitting) which means 'more pressure on our public transport'. They are 'ramping up' bus, train and tram services with government funding but 'need to do more'. Shapps wants to highlight three points:
- Work from home if possible and if you can’t, avoid public transport where possible. If 'you must' use public transport, 'you should follow the guidance, including avoiding the rush hour'.
- He announces that, as of 15 June, face coverings will be mandatory on public transport, with exceptions for very young children, disabled people and those with breathing difficulties. This is 'what many other countries have asked transport users to do' and with more people using transport, the evidence suggests that face coverings offer 'some – albeit limited – protection against the spread of the virus'. The government will make these changes under the National Rail Conditions of Travel and Public Service Vehicle Regulations for buses. 'This will mean you can be refused travel if you don’t comply and could be fined.' British Transport Police will enforce the regulations alongside transport operators. Front-line staff will also need to wear face coverings. The government will work with unions, transport operators and the police.
- 'To ease pressure on public transport', he updates on measures to boost alternative ways to travel, including introducing a Fix Your Bike voucher later this month and extending the Cycle To Work scheme to cover e-bikes. 'The evidence is that commuters are already responding' (they have seen a 100% increase in weekday cycling, up to 200% at weekends). 'We want to use this recovery to permanently change the way we travel.' The government is bringing forward green transport improvements that 'otherwise would have taken years, if not decades, to achieve'. Shapps closes by saying 'we stand on the verge of a new transport revolution […] A green transport revolution…'.
Kay points from the Q&A include Grant Shapps being asked about Alok Sharma and the return to parliament, to which he says parliament hasn’t been able to pass secondary legislation and that 'puts the whole country at risk'. Asked about discharge from hospitals to care homes and who is responsible for care home deaths, Shapps says it’s 'absolutely heart-breaking'. Care homes are 'an interesting situation' because, for example, care homes procured their own personal protective equipment (PPE) up until this disaster, most are privately owned, but the government 'stepped in' and has delivered millions of pieces of PPE to care homes to 'plug that gap'. He says this is the same issue that everybody has been tackling and our rate of care home infection has been lower than elsewhere, which does not change the fact that clinical decisions made at certain times about who should leave hospital will have been an issue for the medical experts at the time. Changes made, eg in guidance, were made early on while everyone was still learning about the disease. Shapps says care homes have been incredible in their response, and there will be time to look back at everything when we 'have got through' COVID-19. Responding to a similar question later on about care homes and discharge from hospital, Grant Shapps adds that 'when you look back at the history of when rules were changed, or when the guidance was changed, a lot of these changes took place quite early on' and there have been 'a lot of steps taken' (eg the £600m package). The majority of care homes nationwide do not have any cases, but it is of interest why in some areas those numbers have come out differently so there are questions to be looked at and reviewed.