Sadiq Khan wearing a protective face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Photo: AFP / Justin Tallis

London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Wednesday called for use of face coverings to remain compulsory on public transport in the British capital after government plans to relax Covid curbs begin on July 19.

Under the plans, passengers on Transport for London (TfL) services – which include the city’s tube, bus, tram and rail networks – would be required to wear a face-covering after an England-wide requirement ends under plans set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.

“I’ve repeatedly made clear that the simplest and safest option would have been for the government to retain the national requirement for face coverings on public transport,” Khan said in a statement.

“I’m not prepared to stand by and put Londoners, and our city’s recovery, at risk. This is why, after careful consideration, I have decided to ask TfL to retain the requirement for passengers to wear a face-covering on all TfL services,” he added.

Johnson and his Health Secretary Sajid Javid have said all virus curbs in England will be removed on July 19 in a transition from enforceable Covid rules to personal responsibility. 

But the move has driven concern among scientists who have warned the decision to unlock has been made too quickly and could lead to a dramatic rise in infections.

“By keeping face masks mandatory we will give Londoners and visitors the reassurance and confidence to make the most of what our city has to offer, while also protecting our heroic transport workers,” Khan said.

“It’s an extra layer of protection on top of TfL’s world-leading enhanced cleaning regime – and I’m sure Londoners will continue to do the right thing as they have done throughout the pandemic, and continue to wear a face-covering on TfL services,” he added.