PASSENGERS will be required to wear face coverings on public transport and taxis in Wales from July 27.

Face coverings will be mandatory on buses, trains and taxis from Monday, July 27, but First Minister Mark Drakeford said that passengers could choose to wear them now.

"It will become mandatory for people to wear a three-layer face covering on public transport, including taxis," said the First Minister.

He added: "Our decision to make the use of face coverings mandatory on public transport is a combination of of the fact that we know, as the economy gets back into operation, more people will need to use public transport to go to work and for other purposes, and when more people need to use a confined space then additional protections need to be introduced in order to overcome the fact that two metre social distancing will not always be possible."

All operators are expected to have the latest measures in place by July 27.

The Leader:

First Minister Mark Drakeford. Image: Welsh Government

Mr Drakeford added that an enforcement regime will be published in the coming days.

"It cannot be left to the driver or the staff on the ground," he said.

"This is why we are giving two weeks notice on the measures."

Mark Drakford said the change was in part "for the sake of simplicity and consistency", with similar rules used in England.

Young children will be exempt, though Mr Drakeford did not say what the cut-off age was, as well as people with breathing difficulties.

Mr Drakeford said the next two weeks before the rules change will be used "making sure we've got the detail right", including advice for people who rely on lip reading and details on how it will be enforced.

Guidance on the measures that must be in place when two-metre physical distancing cannot be met has been published by the Government, he said, and some operators will be ready before the new rules come into force.

Mr Drakeford said he would not mandate the use of three-layered face coverings in other public places, but that could change depending on the state of the virus in Wales, and some businesses could require people to wear coverings inside their premises.

He said: "At this point in time when the prevalence of coronavirus is low, we are not mandating the use of face coverings in other public places.

"But many people, of course, choose to wear them and there is nothing to stop that happening in Wales. Our advice may change if cases of coronavirus begin to increase again.

"And where it is not possible to maintain a two-metre social distance, some businesses may ask people to wear a face covering before they enter those premises."

Peter Hughes, Unite Wales regional secretary, said: "Unite Wales warmly welcomes Welsh Government's decision to make face coverings mandatory on public transport in Wales. Our members working for bus companies and within the taxi trade have been arguing that this is the best way to protect themselves and the travelling public.

"This decision will improve safety on our buses, trains and taxis and help prevent the transmission of Covid-19 within Wales. It will also greatly increase the confidence of the general public to travel on public transport as lockdown measures are eased."

Darren Millar, the Welsh Conservatives' shadow Covid recovery minister, said: "The First Minister and his cabinet must produce the scientific evidence - if it exists - to justify introducing them two weeks from now rather than with immediate effect and why only on public transport.

"Lockdown is being eased, life is returning to a 'new normal', but we must still take every precaution to avoid a second wave of cases, and making wearing face masks mandatory from today may go some way to achieving this - but only if brought in now."

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said: "I welcome the news that Welsh Government has made a U-turn on mandating the use of face coverings on public transport. But in acknowledging that face coverings make a crucial difference on trains, buses and in taxis, the question must be begged of Welsh Government - why not in shops also?

"The latest guidance, while a step in the right direction, still doesn't go far enough. What we know about coronavirus is that it is more likely to be spread in an indoor setting, and that it is still in community transmission in Wales. To protect the public in only a handful of settings does not make sense."

Public Health Wales said no new deaths had been recorded of people who tested positive for coronavirus for the second day in a row, with the number remaining at 1,541.

The total number of cases in Wales increased by 25 to 17,045.