Leftist Mayor Sadiq Khan: Not Wearing a Mask on London Transport Should Be a Crime

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: London Mayor Sadiq Khan sits on a bus while visiting the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden on July 14, 2021 in London, England. The mayor visited the museum to promote the #LetsDoLondon summer activity programme, as the country further emerges from pandemic-era social restrictions. …
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Labour’s Sadiq Khan is lobbying the government for a by-law to make not wearing a mask on London public transport a fineable offence, despite the legal requirement for face coverings being lifted across England last month.

The left-wing London mayor had unsuccessfully lobbied the government in July to keep the enforcement of mask-wearing on public transport after the 19th.

Instead, Mr Khan ordered Transport for London (TfL) to make mask-wearing a condition of carriage for using buses, underground trains, and city-controlled overground trains. This means that enforcement officers can refuse public transport service to people not wearing masks without exemption, but, unlike the Metropolitan Police Service or the British Transport Police (BTP), they cannot issue fines as it is not a law.

Despite admitting there is anecdotal evidence that the number of people wearing masks under the conditions of service is “broadly speaking the same as they were before the easing [of rules] from the government”, the Labour-run City Hall is nevertheless “trying to lobby the government to allow us to bring in a by-law so it will be the law again, so we can issue fixed penalty notices and we can use the police service and BTP, as well, to enforce this”, Mr Khan told the BBC’s Newscast on Wednesday.

The London mayor, who was reelected in May, albeit by a smaller majority, implied that mask-wearing was not just for actual safety, but for giving the impression of safety — needed, Khan said, to entice people back into the capital after some 17 months of restrictions.

“Public transport is safe. What gives people even more confidence is then other people are wearing facemasks. We need people to be coming back to the West End. We want to encourage people to come to their offices. They’re not going to do so if they don’t think public transport is safe,” Mr Khan said.

“So I’m hoping the government understands, on the issue of public safety and public confidence, we want to be able to use the law to make sure people do wear face masks in spaces where you can’t keep your social distance for obvious reasons.”

Khan may not have to lobby the government for a London transport by-law, with some lockdown sceptics concerned that Boris Johnson’s government could reintroduce restrictions, including mask-wearing, in Winter or even as early as Autumn.

When the government confirmed in July that it would be reviewing its COVID-19 response in September, Conservative MP Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), warned the Johnson administration against shutting Britain down in Autumn.

“As we learn to live with coronavirus like we live with flu, and get on with our lives, it’s vital the Government doesn’t acquiesce into the tunnel vision that has made us sacrifice so much that makes life worth living. We don’t shut schools, pubs and theatres for flu so following the fantastic success of our vaccine rollout, we mustn’t do it for Covid either,” Mr Baker had said.

Ahead of the so-called July 19th Freedom Day, Brexit leader Nigel Farage added: “I have little doubt we’ll be back in some form of lockdown by September.”

Journalist and author Peter Hitchens has also predicted that the United Kingdom could still be debating the use of coronavirus restrictions in a year.

Mr Hitchens said this week: “Here we are, it’s 17, 18 months of all this stuff going on, and any sense that we’re going to get out of it seems to me to be increasingly hard to believe. You think this is going to be temporary? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we’re still discussing travel restrictions, masks, all the rest of it, next year.”

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