Emma Best criticises Sadiq Khan for distancing from the police
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The Mayor of London said he expected the Prime Minister’s announcement that an end to all domestic coronavirus restrictions would mean passengers will no longer need to wear face coverings on Transport for London (TfL) services. However, Mr Khan urged people to be considerate and “continue to wear a face covering where appropriate unless exempt” despite the official guidance.
Christopher Snowdon, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, claimed Mr Khan had made the U-turn to deflect criticism from his failure to enforce mask rules.
He tweeted: “Sensible of Khan to do this now before rampant non-compliance made him look completely ridiculous.”
Mr Snowdon also criticised Mr Khan’s earlier assertion that the London underground was safe to use during the pandemic despite others claiming it was a hotspot for coronavirus infections.
He tweeted: “Remember when he said travelling on the tube was completely safe because they were using detergent? Great days, back when Public Health England said adverts for face masks should be banned.”
Another Twitter used agreed that the move was because “he knows it’s unenforceable and people did what they wanted anyway”.
Another criticised the decision: “I’m actually quite shocked, didn’t think he would do this when he technically doesn’t have to.”
Mr Khan said in a statement: “Following the Government dropping all legal Covid restrictions, and in light of falling infection levels in London, it is expected that wearing a face covering will no longer be a condition of carriage on the TfL network.”
“However, we know that face coverings remain a simple, effective measure that give Londoners confidence to travel, and following clear advice from public health advisers, TfL will likely continue to recommend their use on the network.
“I urge passengers to be considerate of their fellow Londoners and continue to wear a face covering where appropriate unless exempt.”
Mr Khan has been criticised for bringing an end to mask requirements less than a month after he announced that face coverings would remain mandatory on London transport.
The Mayor chose to keep the legal requirement for mask-wearing on the TfL network in place despite it being lifted on other public transport, schools and shops across England last month after the Prime Minister announced the ending of Plan B restrictions from January 26.
Mr Khan broke with Government guidelines and said that passengers would have to continue using face coverings as “sadly this is not the end of our fight against the virus”.
He said: “If we have learnt anything from this pandemic, it is that we must not get complacent and undo all our hard work and sacrifices.
“That’s why face coverings will remain a condition of carriage on TfL services.
“I’m asking everyone in our capital to do the right thing and continue to wear a face covering when travelling on TfL services to keep us all protected and to prevent further restrictions from being necessary later down the line.”
Mr Khan has long been a proponent of masks on public transport since the start of the pandemic.
He has said he fought to persuade the Government to make face covering compulsory in April 2020 and later led calls to reintroduce mask rules in October 2021 in response to a surge in coronavirus infections.
Mr Khan urged passengers to wear face coverings on TfL services throughout the pandemic, often breaking with Government guidelines throughout the rest of the country.
The lifting of mask requirements comes just weeks after government-backed research revealed that commuters using the London underground were at “low risk” of being exposed to Covid-19 as long as they wear a mask and maintain social distancing.
The research from Leeds University indicated that transport networks such as the underground were not “super-spreaders” of the virus and that the risks of infection are “likely to be quite low” if trains are well ventilated and not overcrowded and commuters follow past coronavirus guidelines.
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Professor Cath Noakes said: “Wearing a face covering can significantly reduce the risk of the virus spreading, particularly as it can be harder to socially distance in a Tube or subway carriage at certain times of the day.”
However, the research was carried out before the dramatic spike in the highly infectious Omicron variant.
In his statement on Monday, Mr Khan said in order for restrictions to be lifted “in the safest possible way” the Government must “rethink” its decision to abandon free testing.
The London Mayor also called on the Government to ensure financial support for people who cannot work from home if they test positive.
He said: “We cannot have a situation where only the well-off can afford to ‘live with Covid’ safely or one where we’re not keeping an eye on new variants posing a risk to the country.”
Around 30 per cent of Londoners aged 12 have not received any vaccination while 45 percent have had booster jabs, according to latest government figures.
Over 100 London transport workers have died from Covid-19, the TFL commissioner Andy Byford revealed in October last year.
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