TRAINS and tubes are among the few places you’re likely to still be wearing a face covering.

But there are questions over why they are needed, given a new study found no traces of the virus on public transport.

Face coverings are still being urged in confined spaces, like tubes and trains


Face coverings are still being urged in confined spaces, like tubes and trainsCredit: PA

Places that are regularly touched at four major railway stations in Britain, such as escalator handles, ticket machines and benches, were swabbed.

Air samples that were an hour old were also taken.

Network Rail carried out analysis at four busy stations in January and June: London Euston, Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Piccadilly.

The stations saw more than 213,000 passengers pass through on the testing days.

Examination of the results by Imperial College London found no Covid contamination of any surface, Network Rail said.

There were also no airborne particles of the virus.

Although the study proves that station cleaning is working, it begs the question, why do we still need to practise good hand hygiene and wear a face mask when travelling?

The Government dropped the legal requirement for people to wear face coverings in settings such as public transport on July 19.

🔵 Read ourcoronavirus live blog for the latest updates

But it still recommends one in crowded places, while Transport for London says they are a “condition of carriage” on its services.

This means enforcement officers are able to deny access or throw passengers off if they are found to be non-compliant.

Why do we need to wear a face covering?

Dr David Green, senior research fellow at Imperial College London involved in the study, suggested if more testing had been carried out on Network Rail’s trains, eventually the researchers would have come across coronavirus particles. 

Therefore, the risk is still there for passengers – it just wasn’t detected in this study. 

He told The Sun: “If we kept on sampling, the chances are we would get close to someone with Covid.

“There is evidence that Covid can be detected in places you know people are infected – so ICU wards, areas outside it, and in the homes of people infected.

“It’s less likely in the environment because it’s a bigger space.

“You know people are transmitting and catching Covid in confined spaces where people are infected; that could include a transport network, if you are in an enclosed space with Covid.”

It’s possible the study found zero traces of Covid as a result of people still wearing face coverings.

It implies that if this rule was taken away, Covid particles would increase and thus pose a risk to travellers.

Where do you need to wear a face covering?

England: People are no longer required by law to wear face coverings in certain settings now the remaining restrictions in England have been lifted. But the Government “expects and recommends” masks to be worn by workers and customers in crowded, enclosed spaces such as public transport. Face coverings will continue to be compulsory in some locally operated public transport spaces.

Wales: Almost all coronavirus measures due to be lifted from August 7, but it will remain the law to wear a face mask on public transport and in most indoor settings except pubs and restaurants and schools. The Welsh Government said it will lift the requirement for people to wear masks as soon as the public health situation allows.

Scotland: People are still expected to wear masks in public places like shops, public transport, bank, places of worship and gyms. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said face covering measures are likely to remain for “some time to come”.

Northern Ireland: Face coverings are required in all indoor settings accessible to the public, including shops, shopping centres, public transport and cinemas. Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said she cannot predict an end date for the mandatory wearing of face coverings or masks.

Dr Green said: “When we look back to the early pandemic, when it was first spotted in China, and people travelled without face masks, there was clear evidence of transmission through these routes.

“You could tell because there weren’t many cases of Covid and you could trace them back to individual points of contact.

“We can’t do that now because there are so many cases in the UK.

“The fact we are not finding it on Network Rail is because lots of people are vaccinated – and the evidence says if you are vaccinated you are less likely to transmit the virus – and they should be wearing face masks, so transmission should be reduced.

“There is also a lot of cleaning, so the virus shouldn’t be hanging around on surfaces.”

Asked if people should continue to cover up, Dr Green said: “I think while Covid has a high prevalence in the population, then to reduce transmission, you are wearing one to reduce your chance of spreading the virus to others, and any chance of yourself becoming infected.

“That should continue while there is high prevalence.”

The Mayor of London urged commuters to continue wearing face coverings on the capital’s public transport network on England’s “Freedom Day” on July 19.

Sadiq Khan said people should still “recognise the virus is still here”. 

“Whenever you are indoors and cannot keep your social distancing, err on the side of caution and put your face mask on,” he said.

“I think when you leave your home now, just like you think about having your keys, your wallet, your purse, carry a face mask as well.”

Dr David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation special envoy on Covid-19, has also urged people to continue with preventative measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

He told Sky News: “My recommendation is simply wear your mask, don’t get too close to people, watch out in confined spaces and remember this virus hasn’t gone away.”

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi says public will be ‘expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed places’ after July 19

Source: Sun

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