GUIDANCE has been published by the Welsh Government with everything you need to know as face coverings become a legal requirement when using public transport.

It has today been reported that people using buses, trains and taxis will see the new laws come into effect from today, July 27.

People who make use of public transport – including taxis – must now wear a face covering anywhere in Wales.

This change was announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford on July 13 as part of ongoing efforts to protect people from the threat of coronavirus.

At present, no plans are in place for the Welsh Government to make face coverings a compulsory measure in other areas – such as shops.

The Welsh Government have answered various questions regarding the new law in the lead up to it becoming enforceable. We have rounded up some of the most asked questions so readers know everything they should to avoid breaking these new rules.

What is a face covering and how is it used?

Face coverings must cover the mouth and nose. When putting coverings on, and while they are on, you should only handle the straps, ties or clips. Do not touch the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose.

You should also wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before and after removing.

If you are using a reusable face covering, store it in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash it. Wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric. You can use your normal detergent, and you can wash and dry it with other laundry.

Do not give it to someone else to use and you must throw away your face covering if it is damaged.

If the face covering is single use, dispose of it in a residual waste bin. Do not put it in a recycling bin.

The Leader:

Where and when does the requirement apply?

The requirement applies to all enclosed public transport vehicles including buses, coaches, trains, trams, ferries and aircraft (where they take off or land in Wales). It also applies to taxis and to tourist services, such as mountain railways and excursion buses.

Face coverings should be worn for the duration of the journey on public transport. This means they must be worn from when you get on the vehicle and they must stay in place until you get off.

There is no legal requirement to wear a face covering while waiting for transport to arrive - at a bus stop, for example. However, the normal practice on maintaining a two metre social distance should be observed.

Who does the requirement apply to and are there any exceptions?

The requirement applies to all passengers aged 11 and over.

In some circumstances, there are exemptions which mean the requirement does not apply at all. In other circumstances some people may have a reasonable excuse, depending on the situation, not to wear a face covering some or all of the time.

These exemptions include children under the age of 11 who not required to wear face coverings on any transport.

Similarly, there is no legal requirement to wear a face covering on dedicated school transport - whether that is a bus or a taxi. Separate guidance on school transport will be given to local authorities, schools and transport operators ahead of the new school year.

The Leader:

Other exemptions apply to cruise ships and most ferries.

Ferries where the passenger area is open air, where a two-metre social and physical distancing can be maintained or where passengers stay in their own vehicles are exempt.

If a ferry isn’t exempt, face coverings do not need to be worn inside cabins occupied by members of a single household or of an extended household (including a carer who is considered part of the household for these purposes).

It does not apply to staff or to police officers who need to board vehicles in the course of their duties to enforce the law.

You may have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering if (for example):

• You are not able to put on or to wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, or because of a disability or impairment

• You are accompanying somebody who relies on lip reading where they need to communicate

• You are escaping from a threat or danger and do not have a face covering

You may also have a reasonable excuse to remove a face covering temporarily if (again, for example):

• You need to take medicines

• You need to eat or drink, and this is permitted on the type of vehicle you are on

• You need to remove a face covering in order to avoid harm or injury, either to yourself or others – for example to get somebody’s attention about a danger.

However, whether somebody has a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering at any particular moment depends on the individual and the circumstances in which the individual is travelling.

For example, when considering whether there is a need to eat or drink in the course of the journey, the length of the journey, any physical conditions and the temperature and humidity in the vehicle may all be relevant.

Most people do not need to eat or drink on short journeys, but this may be different for somebody who is diabetic, for example, or in in hot weather.

Most people who suffer from asthma, for example, may be able to wear a face covering for short journeys. However, they may not feel comfortable on long journeys or in hot weather. Some may also feel that they can’t breathe when wearing a face covering.

Likewise, in most circumstances people can avoid taking medication on a journey, in particular a short journey.

How can I show that I am not required to wear a face covering?

Whether somebody has a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering will not always be obvious.

Disabilities and impairments are not always visible to others and respect and understanding should be shown to those who have good reasons not to wear face coverings.

The Welsh Government advise passengers carry information if possible which demonstrates why they have a reasonable excuse (for example a prescription or evidence such as a hospital appointment letter relating to a medical condition).

A number of transport operators are also suggesting that those who have a reasonable excuse carry cards that can be downloaded from their websites and printed.

How will the requirement be enforced?

The Welsh Government says it is vital however that the new rules are explained to public transport passengers and that they have an opportunity to comply.

Transport operators are required to provide information about the legal requirement to those intending to use their vehicles and this may be provided in a variety of ways.

Transport operators websites should carry specific information on wearing face coverings as part of the conditions of travelling.

Notices advising passengers of their legal obligation to wear face coverings should also be displayed in a prominent place on board the transport (in both English and Welsh) whenever feasible. Notices and information should also be provided at facilities such as bus stops, train stations, ferry terminals, and departure lounges.

The Leader:

Transport operators are also required by Welsh law to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus on their premises, which includes vehicles. This means drivers, crew and on-board staff have a role in explaining what the requirements are and ensuring that passengers wear face coverings.

Wearing face coverings should be regarded as an essential behaviour for travel alongside other well-established behaviours.

Drivers should refuse to carry a passenger who fails to wear a face covering when boarding a bus, for example, unless they have an exemption or a reasonable excuse not to.

If a passenger ignores an instruction to wear a face covering given by a transport operator or an employee of the operator, this (of itself) is an offence.

It is also an offence not to wear a face covering on public transport unless an exemption applies or a passenger has a reasonable excuse.

When asked, passengers will be given an opportunity to wear a face covering or explain why they have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering. If they are not complying with the law passengers may be told to get off the vehicle they are travelling on.

However, police or environmental health officers can also issue a fixed penalty for breaches of these requirements.

A first offence is punishable by a penalty of £60 (which doubles for each subsequent offence up to a maximum of £1920). Repeat offenders could also be prosecuted in court where there is no limit to the fine that may be issued.

Why is this being done?

The requirement is being imposed to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus and is part of a wide range of restrictions and requirements that seek to contain the spread of the virus.

The main justification for wearing face coverings on public transport is that there is less scope in buses, trains, aeroplanes and taxis for taking other steps to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. On public transport passengers are generally confined to a seat for the duration of the journey and movement away from other passengers is often not possible.

The World Health Organisation advises use of face coverings in crowded enclosed environments where social distancing is not possible. England and Scotland have introduced compulsory face coverings for public transport, as have many other countries around the world.

Advice from Dr Frank Atherton, the chief medical officer for Wales, has recommended for some time the use of face coverings in confined spaces where social distancing may not be possible.

The Leader:

Social distancing and good handwashing and respiratory hygiene are still the most important things we can do to contain the virus. However, making the use of face coverings compulsory on public transport is an acknowledgement that social distancing is generally not possible on most vehicles.

The Welsh Government says that scientific evidence suggests wearing face coverings in confined spaces is likely to inhibit the spread of virus. They do this mainly by containing the virus to the mouth or nose of an infected person so, to be effective, they need to be worn by all who can wear one.

This is particularly important because many people who can carry the virus display no symptoms and will not know they could be infecting others.