Commuters ride the London Underground with no face coverings

So much for the mask crackdown, Priti! Commuters ride the Tube with NO face coverings… less than 24 hours after Home Secretary and police chief vowed to get tougher on flouters

  • Commuters pictured travelling through London during rush hour this morning without wearing face masks
  • It comes just hours after Home Secretary Priti Patel backed a tougher police approach to lockdown rules 
  • Some people don’t have to wear a mask if they have a valid exemption such as it causing them severe distress 
  • But concerns are mounting that others are simply breaking the law because they don’t want to wear one

Commuters were pictured travelling through London during rush hour this morning without wearing face masks hours after the Home Secretary backed a tougher police approach to lockdown rules.

Priti Patel said a minority of the public are ‘putting the health of the nation at risk’, adding that officers are moving more quickly to issuing fines where people are clearly breaching coronavirus regulations.

Some people don’t have to wear a mask if they have a valid exemption, such as it causing them severe distress or because of a physical or mental illness, impairment or disability – and they do not have to carry proof of this.

But concerns are mounting that others are simply breaking the law because they don’t want to wear one – and Ms Patel revealed yesterday that nearly 45,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued in the UK since March.

A string of supermarkets including Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have now pledged to get tougher with customers who refuse to wear face coverings by denying them entry to their stores. 

Some commuters don’t wear face masks on the Jubilee line in London today. It is not known whether they have an exemption

Two passengers sit on a London Overground train today while not wearing face masks. Some passengers have an exemption

A commuter on a Jubilee line train this morning. Some people don’t have to wear a mask if they have a valid exemption

One woman sits on a London Overground train today with a mask pulled down. It is not known if the other woman is exempt

Commuters wearing face masks wait for an Overground train this morning at Canada Water station in East London

Britain’s most senior police officer, Dame Cressida Dick, said her Metropolitan Police officers would be prepared to assist shop staff if customers became ‘obstructive and aggressive’ when told they must wear a face covering.

Speaking about enforcement, Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh told talkRADIO this morning: ‘There are areas that are difficult for us. For instance, the wearing of masks and the people with exemption. 

Speaker advises MPs to wear masks ‘wherever possible’ in the Commons

MPs have been advised to wear face masks ‘wherever possible’ in the House of Commons chamber.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle suggested the exception should be when MPs are called to speak.

People on the parliamentary estate have been encouraged to wear masks in recent months, although the Speaker’s words go a step further in pressing MPs to wear a face covering in the chamber.

The number of MPs on the floor of the House has been limited to 50 during the Covid-19 pandemic, with others contributing virtually via Zoom.

Opening business, Sir Lindsay told the Commons: ‘Can I just say to members, wherever possible please try and wear masks all the time, apart from obviously when we’re speaking. So please bear that in mind.’

Most MPs could be seen wearing masks during housing, communities and local government questions.

‘I have asked over and over again for the onus of exemption to be on the individual. I know I’ve been criticised on social media etc. All I’m asking for is the fact that we carry on with the prosecution, and then you have an opportunity to show your exemption after.

‘So you’re not challenged in the street, you’re not embarrassed, you’re put on offer, you’re not made to feel belittled or anything like that – you have an opportunity after. That hasn’t been done. So it makes it far more difficult for my colleagues to act upon where they are.’

Mr Marsh continued: ‘Supermarket individuals can’t enforce law. It’s down to the police. It’s private property and they have the right to refuse whoever they want. But that is wholly unfair and there are people who do have very legitimate reasons why they can’t wear one.

‘But if we make the onus very much on the individual, people would think twice, and I would suggest, God forbid, that the only people then not wearing them are the individuals who do have an exemption, and that’s absolutely fine because further down the road we can deal with it.’ 

National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt said that more officers will be out on dedicated patrols to deal with rule breakers, while Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has also spoken to councils about enforcing the regulations.

Latest figures showed that as of yesterday, a further 1,243 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, which brings the UK total to 81,960.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 99,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

The Government also said that, as of 9am yesterday, there had been a further 45,533 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 3,118,518. 

A woman goes to board a London Overground train this morning as the third lockdown continues for England

A London commuter is pictured not wearing a face mask on the Jubilee line today. It is not known if he has an exemption

A busy Circle or District line train on the London Underground this morning while stopped at Victoria station

Commuters sit and stand on board a Jubilee line train this morning as they travel through London

Commuters wear face coverings while travelling on the Jubilee line through the capital this morning

Mr Hewitt told a briefing yesterday that officers will not ‘linger’ trying to encourage the public to obey lockdown rules. He said: ‘It is very clear that we are now at the most dangerous stage of the pandemic.

‘There is a real and present risk that our health service could be overwhelmed and people – our friends and family – could die needlessly from this virus. So, we must all play a part in stopping that from happening.

‘Ten months on, the rules are clear and I urge everyone to abide by them. With a virus spreading so rapidly through contact with others we should all be asking ourselves whether our reason to leave home is truly essential. Those personal decisions are critical.’

He gave examples of recent breaches including a boat party in Hertfordshire with more than 40 people who had each paid £30 each for a ticket, and a minibus full of people from different households travelling from Cheltenham into Wales for a walk.

Earlier, crime and policing minister Kit Malthouse said officers would be adopting a new ‘high-profile’ approach to enforcing the rules that could include stopping members of the public to ask why they are not at home.  

Passengers stand and sit as they travel on the Jubilee line through London on their commute this morning

Tube passengers stand on board a Jubilee line train travelling through London this morning

A man travels on the London Underground’s Jubilee line this morning while wearing a face mask pulled below his nose

Commuters wait for the doors to close on board a Jubilee line this morning as the third lockdown continues

Commuters travel on an escalator at a London Underground station this morning as they continue to travel to work

Dame Cressida also warned that officers in London will move swiftly to fine people who blatantly ignore the regulations.

Their comments came amid confusion over the distance that members of the public are allowed to travel to exercise, with the Prime Minister sparking debate after going for a bike ride seven miles from Downing Street. 

During the briefing Ms Patel herself incorrectly referred to ‘outdoor recreation’ being allowed under the rules, apparently having meant to say exercise.

Leaders of police groups called on the Government to clarify the ‘incredibly vague’ rules, which saw two women incorrectly fined for driving five miles from their Derbyshire homes to meet for a walk. 

But Mr Hewitt rejected setting a specific distance that members of the public should be able to travel by law, because it would be too difficult to prove if they had broken the rules.

Morning traffic coming into London over the Marylebone flyover in London today during England’s third national lockdown

Traffic comes into London over the Marylebone flyover as England’s third coronavirus national lockdown continues

The 18 London bus travels into Central London this morning over the Marylebone flyover during the third national lockdown

Home Secretary Priti Patel (left) and National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt (right) at yesterday’s briefing

This came as:

  • The latest health service figures showed 2,347,461 people in Great Britain have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • The Government faced calls to urgently roll out its national free school meal voucher scheme after one mother posted an image of a £30 parcel estimated to contain just more than £5 worth of food. 
  • Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that more than 40,000 extra deaths have taken place in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson told MPs the peak demand on the health service may not be reached until early to mid-February.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said ministers will consider whether key workers such as police, teachers and essential shop staff should be prioritised once the most vulnerable have received the coronavirus vaccine.

Police leaders are pushing for frontline officers to get the vaccine after the highest priority groups have received their jabs. 

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