Face coverings will be compulsory on public transport in England from June 15 to help contain the transmission of the novel coronavirus, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Thursday.
Chairing Thursday's Downing Street daily briefing, Shapps said people are required to wear face coverings on buses, trains, tubes and other modes of public transport from June 15 as COVID-19 is still a "very real threat" and the "fight still goes on to defeat it".
Noting that this measure is for England, he said he expects Scotland and Wales to introduce similar face coverings rule for rail passengers.
The measure was welcomed by many transport unions.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, a British trade union representing train drivers, said it is "a sensible step".
"The instruction to wear face coverings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus will ease the concerns of people travelling, and working, on the transport network," said Whelan.
According to the Office for National Statistics, transport workers who have regular contact with members of the public are at particularly high risk of dying from coronavirus. Bus drivers are more than twice as likely to die from coronavirus as average working-age men.
Shortly after Shapps' announcement, Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, reminded Scots that the Scottish government already strongly advised their use on public transport and in shops.
"A reminder that @scotgov already strongly advises the use of face coverings in shops and public transport. As I said earlier today, we are considering making it mandatory. However, no need to wait for that -- please do it now (unless you have, eg, asthma)," she said on her Twitter account.
Another 176 COVID-19 patients have died in Britain as of Wednesday afternoon, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in the country to 39,904, said Shapps.
The figures include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.