Sadiq Khan hits out at Tory MPs ditching masks, fearing effect on commuters

7 September 2021, 15:14

By Fiona Jones

Tory MPs continue to refuse to wear masks during a packed Commons debate, which the London Mayor fears will lead to less mask wearing on London transport.

London saw its busiest morning-rush hour on Monday, with early figures from Transport for London showing a 19% jump in passengers on the Tube network up to 9am, compared to last Tuesday, and 43% more on buses.

However, the London Mayor feared a rise in Covid infection due to the "selfish minority" who refused to wear masks, and may be encouraged to act this way by mirroring Tory ministers.

Sadiq Khan said: "When people see our leaders in the Houses of Parliament...it gives the impression that there's no need to wear a face mask even when you're indoors."

The Government removed the legal requirement for mask wearing on transport from 19 July, which has left Sadiq Khan "hamstrung" and "unable to use the police" to enforce the rules.

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There are 400 enforcement officers employed by TfL who have the power to stop commuters breaking the contract of carriage by refusing to wear masks; Mr Khan told James they have stopped "hundreds."

James said that "not as many people as most of us would like" are wearing masks on the Tube and the bus, and the Mayor explained the difficulties of refusing members of the public: "I'm afraid the bad news is last week we had a bus driver assaulted."

Health chiefs say London faces a rise in coronavirus infections as people return to work and school.

The Covid-19 vaccination programme will mean that hospitalisation and death rates from the virus will be far lower than in previous waves.

However, the capital has the worst vaccination rate of all regions, with just over 58 per cent of Londoners having had both doses.