Face Coverings & Transport – When You Need To wear Them

Travel safely during the coronavirus outbreak

This update covers the main changes in travel advice coming into force on Monday June 15 2020, with particular emphasis on face coverings, when you have to wear them and what exemptions there are (which include disability in some instances).

New Advice For June 15 Onwards

From 15 June 2020, it is the law that you must wear a face covering when travelling in England on a bus, coach, train, taxi or tram.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering including for health, age or equality reasons. Some transport staff may not wear a face covering if it is not required for their job.

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a reasonable excuse not to. Reasonable excuses include:

  • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • to eat or drink, but only if you need to
  • to take medication
  • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

A Full Round-Up Of Current Travel Advice

Travel safely during the coronavirus outbreak

You can help control coronavirus and travel safely by:

  • working from home where possible
  • shopping locally and less often
  • considering all other forms of transport before using public transport
  • avoiding the busiest times and routes
  • keeping your distance when your travel – 2 metres apart where possible
  • washing or sanitising your hands regularly

You should not travel at all if you:

If you have any symptoms of coronavirus you should self-isolate at home and arrange to have a test to see if you have coronavirus.

If anyone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus you should self-isolate.

Face coverings

From 15 June 2020, it is the law that you must wear a face covering when travelling in England on a:

  • bus or coach
  • train or tram
  • ferry or hovercraft or other vessel
  • aircraft
  • cable car

If you do not wear a face covering you will be breaking the law and could be fined £100, or £50 if you pay the fine within 14 days.

A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth.

How to wear and make a face covering.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering including for health, age or equality reasons. Some transport staff may not wear a face covering if it is not required for their job.

You should also wear a face covering in other enclosed spaces where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. For example, at stations, interchanges, ports and airports and in taxis and private hire vehicles. A taxi driver may be entitled to refuse to accept you if you are not wearing a face covering.

The rule applies in situations where individuals from different households could be travelling together on a service such as a charter boat, but not if you are giving a lift to someone from another household in your private car.

Surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment (PPE) should continue to be reserved for people who need to wear them at work.

Face coverings are not a substitute for maintaining social distancing and good hand hygiene.

The law requiring you to wear a face covering on public transport applies while you are in England. All UK nations recommend wearing a face covering while travelling on public transport, so you should continue to wear one if travelling into Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland from England. If travelling from any other UK nation, you will be required to wear a face covering when you enter England.

When you can remove your face covering

You should remove your face covering if asked to do so by a police officer or other relevant person.

It is important to wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching your face covering. For longer journeys, take more than one face covering and a plastic bag for used face coverings.

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a reasonable excuse not to. Reasonable excuses include:

  • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • to eat or drink, but only if you need to
  • to take medication
  • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

Walking and cycling

Walk or cycle if you can.

This will reduce pressure on public transport and the road network.

Your local council can help you plan your journey by providing maps showing dedicated paths and routes.

Where possible, keep a 2 metre distance from others. For example, when waiting at crossings and traffic lights.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands before and after cycling.

Consider making a list of items to take with you.

Private cars and other vehicles

Plan your journey

Plan your route, including any breaks, before setting out. Routes may be different as local areas make changes to enable social distancing.

Check that your vehicle is safe and roadworthy if you haven’t used it for several weeks.

You should wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. Take care to use face coverings properly.

Consider making a list of items to take with you.

Car sharing

If you normally share a vehicle with people from other households for essential journeys, we recommend you find a different way to travel so that you can maintain social distance. For example, consider walking, cycling or using your own vehicle if you can.

If you do have to travel with people outside your household try to:

  • share the transport with the same people each time
  • keep to small groups of people at any one time
  • open windows for ventilation
  • face away from each other
  • consider seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle
  • clean your car between journeys using standard cleaning products – make sure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch
  • ask the driver and passengers to wear a face covering

On your journey

Expect more pedestrians and cyclists, especially at peak times of day. Where possible, allow other road users to maintain a 2 metre social distance. For example, give cyclists space at traffic lights.

Limit the time you spend at garages, petrol stations and motorway services. Try to keep your distance from other people and if possible pay by contactless. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands often, and always when exiting or re-entering your vehicle.

Completing your journey

When finishing your journey wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible

Public transport

From 15 June 2020, you must wear a face covering on public transport in England. You will be breaking the law if you fail to do so and could be fined.

A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth.

How to wear and make a face covering.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering for health, age or equality reasons.

You should remove your face covering if asked to do so by a police officer or other relevant person.

It is important to wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching your face covering.

Plan your journey

Consider all other forms of transport before using public transport.

Before and during your journey, check with your transport operator for the latest travel advice on your route:

Travel may take longer than normal on some routes due to social distancing measures. Allow more time if your journey involves changes between different forms of transport.

If you can:

  • travel at off-peak times
  • use quieter stations and stops – get off a stop early if it’s less busy
  • keep changes to a minimum, for example, between bus and train
  • walk for more of your journey, for example the first or last mile
  • book your tickets online in advance or pay by contactless

Consider making a list of items to take with you and minimise the luggage you take.

On your journey

From 15 June 2020, you must wear a face covering on public transport in England. You will be breaking the law if you fail to do so and could be fined.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering for health, age or equality reasons.

Where possible, keep a 2 metre distance from others during your journey. If you can’t keep a suitable distance from others, you should:

  • avoid physical contact
  • try to face away from other people
  • keep the time you spend near others as short as possible

Be aware of the surfaces you touch. Be careful not to touch your face. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.

Help keep yourself, other passengers and transport staff safe:

  • ensure you maintain social distancing, where possible, including at busy entrances, exits, under canopies, bus stops, platforms or outside of stations
  • be prepared to queue or take a different entrance or exit at stations
  • wait for passengers to get off first before you board
  • wait for the next service if you cannot safely keep your distance on board a train, bus or coach
  • avoid consuming food and drink on public transport, where possible
  • respect other people’s space while travelling
  • be aware of pregnant, older and disabled people who may require a seat or extra space
  • be aware that not all disability is visible and some people may be exempt from wearing a face covering

Treat transport staff with respect and follow instructions from your transport operator. This may include:

  • notices about which seats to use or how to queue
  • additional screens, barriers or floor markings
  • requests to board through different doors or to move to less busy areas

Seek assistance if you need it

If you require assistance when travelling, contact your transport operator as you would normally do.

If any problems arise or you feel ill during your journey, speak to a member of transport staff. In the case of an emergency, contact the emergency services as you normally would.

If you need help, try to keep a 2 metre distance from members of staff. If this isn’t possible, try to avoid physical contact and keep the time you spend near staff as short as possible.

Children on public transport

Where travel is necessary, consider whether children could walk or cycle, accompanied by a responsible adult or carer, where appropriate.

Social distancing applies to children as well as adults. Children should keep a 2 metre distance from others who are not in their household, while on public transport. If this isn’t possible children should:

  • avoid physical contact
  • face away from others
  • keep the time spent near others as short as possible

Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 3, for safety.

The law requiring passengers to wear face coverings does not apply to children under the age of 11.

If you are the responsible adult or carer travelling with children, please help them:

  • minimise the surfaces they touch
  • maintain their distance from others
  • wear their face covering
  • wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible after the end of your journey

Where relevant, consider travel guidance for educational settings.

Completing your journey

When finishing your journey:

  • consider walking or cycling from the station or stop you arrived at
  • wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible – do the same for children who have travelled with you

Taxis and private hire vehicles

You should wear a face covering when using taxis or private hire vehicles. A taxi driver may be entitled to refuse to accept you if you are not wearing a face covering.

Keep a 2 metre distance from others during your journey, for example at taxi ranks. If you need to be near other people you should:

  • avoid physical contact
  • try to face away from other people
  • keep the time you spend near other people as short as possible

Follow the advice of the driver. For example, you may be asked to sit in the back left-hand seat if travelling alone. You may want to check with your taxi or private hire operator before travelling if they have put any additional measures in place.

You should use contactless payment if possible, or find out if you can pay online in advance.

Be aware of the surfaces you touch. Be careful not to touch your face. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.

When finishing your journey wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible

Aviation, ferries and maritime transport

From 15 June 2020, you must wear a face covering when travelling on a ferry, hovercraft or aircraft in England. You will be breaking the law if you fail to do so and could be fined.

This applies:

  • in English airspace, when you are on board an aircraft which took off from, or is to land at, a place in England
  • in the English territorial sea, when you are on board a vessel which departed from, or is to dock at, a place in England

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering for health, age or equality reasons.

It is important to wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching your face covering.

How to wear and make a face covering.

Plan your journey

Before you travel, check with your travel operator and port, or airline and airport for the latest travel advice on your route.

There is specific guidance for passengers in airports and on aircraft.

Consider making a list of items to take with you.

On your journey

Where possible, keep a 2 metre distance from others during your journey. If you can’t do so, you should:

  • avoid physical contact
  • try to face away from other people
  • keep the time you spend near others as short as possible

Be aware of the surfaces you touch. Be careful not to touch your face. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.

Be considerate to your fellow passengers and to transport staff:

Treat transport staff with respect and follow instructions from your transport operator. This may include:

  • notices about which seats to use or how to queue
  • additional screens, barriers or floor markings
  • requests to board through different doors or to move to less busy areas

Completing your journey

When finishing your journey wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible.

Travelling abroad

COVID-19 exceptional travel advisory notice

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. This advice is being kept under constant review.

If you travel abroad, make sure you understand the:

Also read the following guidance:

Check your specific plans with your airline, ferry, train operator and accommodation provider, and where relevant with your travel insurance provider.

Your transport provider may put measures in place to help you follow the public health guidance of the destination country.

On arrival in the UK

On arriving in the UK, you should comply with border, immigration and self-isolation requirements.

If you are entering the UK from outside the Common Travel Area (CTA) you will need to:

These measures apply to anyone entering the UK, regardless of nationality or length of trip. There are specific exemptions in place.

You should leave the port, airport or station as quickly as possible. Access to ports or airports may be limited to passengers, crew members and staff.

Non-passengers should only enter airports where needed. For example, accompanying or picking up a passenger requiring assistance or unaccompanied children.

Completing your journey

When finishing your journey:

  • follow all local guidance
  • wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible

Exemptions – people who do not have to wear a face covering

The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to:

  • a child under the age of 11
  • an employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • any other person providing services to the transport operator, under arrangements made with the transport operator, who is providing those services
  • a constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • an emergency responder such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • an official, for example a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
  • if you are allocated a cabin, berth or other similar accommodation, at any time when you are in that accommodation, either alone, or only with members of your own household or a linked household
  • if you are on board public transport but remain in your private vehicle, for example on a car ferry

The requirement to wear a face covering also does not apply if you have a reasonable excuse not to. Reasonable excuses include:

  • if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • if you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • if you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering
  • if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example to check your railcard

Enforcement of face coverings on public transport

You are not allowed to get on public transport if you are not wearing a face covering, unless you have a legitimate reason for not wearing one. Transport staff may tell you not to board or ask you to get off.

If you refuse to wear a face covering, you can receive a fine from the police or Transport for London enforcement officers. The fixed penalty notice will require you to pay £100 (reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days).

Checklists for safer travel

Plan your journey

  • can I walk or cycle to my destination?
  • have I checked the latest travel advice from my transport operator?
  • have I booked my travel ticket online, bought a pass or checked if contactless payment is possible?
  • have I planned my journey to minimise crowded areas and allow for delays?
  • am I taking the most direct route to my destination?

What to take with you

  • a face covering -for longer journeys, take more than one face covering and a plastic bag for used face coverings
  • a plan for the journey
  • tickets, contactless payment card or pass
  • phone, if needed for travel updates, tickets, contactless payments
  • hand sanitiser
  • essential medicines
  • tissues

Safer travel information sheet

Safer travel guidance for passengers information sheet

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See also

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer transport guidance for operators