The mayors of Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City area, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Tyne and the West of England have all slammed Boris Johnson’s decision to remove mandatory face coverings from from Monday.
In a damning joint press conference, they announced that face masks would remain mandatory in parts of the local transport networks they control, despite the Prime Minister’s “Freedom Day” on July 19.
This means that coatings will now be a “condition of carriage” on the London Underground and buses; all Metrolink trams in Greater Manchester; and the Tyne and Wear metro.
They will also be compulsory at South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire bus stations.
But leaders complained that there would now be a strange patchwork of rules.
Because they do not have control over local buses or mainline trains, masks will not be mandatory on these actual services.
Only London buses will have mandatory masks as Transport for London is overseen by the mayor of the capital Sadiq Khan.
Mayors have united to demand that Boris Johnson turn around late and bring back the mandatory masks on public transport across England.
“The government’s mixed messages risk turning public transport into a no-go area for vulnerable people,” South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis said.
“A national mandate would undoubtedly be less confusing for passengers – and more effective. “
The Mayor of the West of England, Dan Norris – who said he could only “encourage” wearing the mask with a local campaign – added that this was a “ridiculous inadequacy” Rules across the UK which was “foolish and crazy”.
This means Boris Johnson is now facing a mass revolt from Labor and SNP leaders across the UK over his decision to remove mandatory masks and ‘recommend’ them instead.
Last night, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced that masks would remain mandatory on all TfL services as a condition of carriage.
And Scotland and Wales have said they will keep face mask laws in place to protect vulnerable people.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who previously said a patchwork of guidance would be confusing, said he was “inundated” with messages warning that Freedom Day would be “the day of fear” for millions of vulnerable people.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people have been advised to avoid overcrowded indoor spaces and unvaccinated people, and to only shop during the quieter hours of the day.
“A person’s choice not to wear one on a bus or tram could affect the physical and mental health of nearby passengers,” Mr Burnham said. He added: “We don’t think they should be placed in this position. “
West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “I would like to include buses and trains, but we can only do what is in our power.
“I ask the government – please listen to the public and put the vulnerable first. “
Liverpool City area mayor Steve Rotheram said he was “hitting brick walls” in a bid to get private bus and train operators to make masks mandatory on their services.
He said he would continue to push them and the government, saying: “Wearing face masks doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t hurt businesses – on the contrary, it helps build confidence. “
Previously, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had said he would support decisions to make masks mandatory on regional transportation networks – despite his own government’s removal of mandatory face coverings.
He claimed Mr Khan’s decision was “very much in line” with what ministers wanted to happen, despite Boris Johnson’s decision to lift legal restrictions in England next Monday.
Mr Khan said he was forced to act due to the government’s decision to lift the restrictions.
He said he was “not ready” to “endanger” metro, tram and bus users in the capital by removing the rules on face coverings after the so-called “day of the freedom “.
He told the BBC: “Personal responsibility is fine, but what about the responsibility you have to others? We know that a face mask reduces transmission to others. It’s the most selfless thing you can do ”.
City leaders across the rest of England do not have the same powers, but have reportedly been in talks with local transport operators to encourage passengers to wear masks.
Mr Shapps backed the move and ministers urged a cautious approach once restrictions are lifted.
He told Sky News: “As we move from a legal requirement to guidelines, we expect individual operators to make sure that we have everything in place that is appropriate for their network. ”
He added: “The airlines have already said that you will have to continue to wear masks on these. This is very much in line with what we expected – and indeed wished – to happen. ”