The government has released its latest advice to travellers as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues.
In line with earlier advice, it suggests that public transport should be avoided where possible, with walking, cycling and even driving as the preferred options.
However, if using public transport cannot be avoided:
- Plan ahead by identifying alternative routes and options in case of unexpected disruption.
- If possible, travel at off-peak times – employers are urged to agree alternative or flexible; working hours to support this;
- Book online through ticketing apps or websites;
- Take a less-busy route, reducing the number of changes (for example between bus and train) to help with distancing from others – Public Health England recommends keeping a two-metre distance from other people whenever possible, keeping the time spent near others as short as possible and avoiding physical contact;
- Try to start or end a journey using a quiet station, for example by walking the first or last mile of the journey, or by alighting at an earlier station, where this is possible.
The advice is also to wear a face covering if using public transport. Evidence suggests that a face covering does not protect the wearer, but it may protect others if the wearer is infected but has not yet developed symptoms. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas. Police officers and transport staff may ask for the face covering to be temporarily removed for the purposes of identification.
A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.
Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by the law.
There may be situations where passengers can’t keep a suitable distance from people, for example when boarding or alighting, on busier services, at busier times of day and when walking through interchanges. In these cases, they should avoid physical contact, try to face away from other people, and keep the time spent 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 your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
Treat transport staff with respect and follow instructions from the transport operator. These 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.
There are also sensible precautions that should be taken by all passengers:
- Waiting for passengers to get off first before boarding;
- Maintaining social distancing, where possible, including at busy entrances, exits, under canopies, bus stops, platforms or outside of stations;
- Being prepared to queue or take a different entrance or exit at stations;
- Waiting for the next service if the rain is already too full for safe distancing;
- Respecting other people’s space while travelling;
- Avoiding the consumption of food and drink on public transport;
- Being aware of pregnant, older and disabled people who may require a seat or extra space;
- Being aware that some individuals may have hidden disabilities;
- Seeking assistance if it is needed.
Passengers who need help should maintain a short distance from members of staff, where possible. If this isn’t possible, they should try to avoid physical contact and keep the time they spend near staff as short as possible.
Social distancing applies to children as well as adults. Children should keep their distance from others who are not in their household. Responsible adults or carers travelling with children should help them follow this guidance, wear face coverings, minimise the surfaces they touch and maintain their distance from others, where possible. Schools may have additional guidance in place for children on transport which should be followed.
Children under 2 years old are not recommended to wear face coverings.
When finishing a journey:
- Consider walking or cycling from the station;
- Wash hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise as soon as possible – responsible adults or carers should do the same for children or others in their care.