Business and transport chiefs react as facemasks are again mandatory for Sunderland shoppers and commuters

Shoppers and commuters have been coming to terms with the reintriction of mandatory facemaks across Sunderland.

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 5:10 pm

Today, Tuesday, November 30, sees face coverings again become compulsory on public transport and in shops as part of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant in the UK.

Face coverings are also compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers.

Metro operator Nexus is urging travellers to comply with the new rules and Customer Services Director Huw Lewis said he had been pleased with the response: “We have seen a marked increase in the use of face coverings on Metro today following the Government decision to make them a legal requirement in busy public spaces, including on public transport,” he said.

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“We all now need to wear face masks in busy places including shops and public transport, and Metro customers have responded to that.

"From what I saw on Metro during the busy morning peak it felt like everybody who could wear a face covering was certainly doing so, around 95% of our customers.

“Our employees will be encouraging and explaining to customers the importance of face coverings, and people will see some targeted operations in areas where we feel face covering levels are not as high as they could be, such as later in the day.

People wearing face masks in Sunderland City Centre at the start of new Covid regulations.

“Face coverings are a simple step that everyone can take to protect you and your family’s health and that of other people in the community. If you are making a journey on any mode of public transport then the Government is clear you have to wear a face covering unless you have a medical exemption.”

The new rules apply to travel on all modes of public transport - on board all trains, buses and ferries and at stations and interchanges.

Enhanced cleaning regimes have been maintained on the Metro system throughout the pandemic. The regime includes the daily use of a hospital-grade cleaning fluid on high touch surfaces, including handrails, poles, buttons and ticket machines, and an anti-bacterial disinfectant spray in Metro carriages which kills germs and keeps critical surfaces and touchpoints cleaner for longer.

Members of the public wear masks as they prepare to board a bus on Tuesday morning at the start of new Covid regulations.

Customers are also being encouraged to keep windows on Metro trains open, to aid ventilation in the carriages.

Sharon Appleby, of Sunderland Bid, said she hoped people would realise the rules were there for everyone’s protection:

“We know that this isn’t an ideal situation but we would hope that shoppers will comply with the reintroduced rule and allow everyone to enjoy the run up to Christmas,” he said.

“Keeping everyone safe is the top priority and we are sure that everyone will realise that .

Huw Lewis

“We would ask that people be respectful if they are reminded by staff about wearing a mask at what is already a stressful and hectic time of year.”

Bridges manager Karen Eve added: “The wellbeing of our shoppers has always been our number one priority.

“We are fully confident the re-introduction of compulsory face mask wearing will not be a problem, allowing everyone to feel confident and safe and able to enjoy the run up to Christmas.”

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Sharon Appleby