diamond geezer

 Sunday, July 26, 2020

This post is about where you have to wear a face covering. If you feel the need to discuss whether people are or should be wearing them, here's a diversionary comments box for your personal opinions. comments

In England we all know that face coverings should be worn...
   • on public transport (from 15th June)
   • in shops (from 24th July)

But that's just the high-level public-friendly description.

Legislation exists which more precisely defines what is and isn't allowed. Whether it's precise enough is a very good question.

The relevant legislation is The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020. It was published last Thursday. Here's the heart of what it says.
Requirement to wear a face covering whilst entering or remaining within a relevant place
3.—(1) No person may, without reasonable excuse, enter or remain within a relevant place without wearing a face covering.
A face covering is defined as "a covering of any type which covers a person’s nose and mouth", which is both very specific and fantastically vague. A list of "reasonable excuses" is duly provided. But the key thing here is the definition of "relevant place".
"relevant place" means—
(a) a place listed in Part 1 of the Schedule; or
(b) a transport hub;
Part 1 of the Schedule lists categories of business premises deemed to be "relevant places" (including shops, enclosed shopping centres, banks, building societies and post offices) and also lists legal exceptions (including restaurants with table service, public houses, libraries, cinemas, bingo halls and massage parlours). An enclosed shopping centre is further defined as "a building containing shops having frontages to an arcade or mall or other covered circulation area" because legislation is often little more than a branching tree of clarification.

Let's focus instead on what a "transport hub" is.
In these Regulations, “transport hub” means any enclosed part of premises used as a station, terminal, port or other similar premises from or to which a public transport service operates, but does not include—
(a) an area which is not open to the public;
(b) an area where seating or tables are made available for the consumption of food and drink
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020 already prescribe that face coverings must be worn "when boarding" or "on board any vehicle by means of which a public transport service is provided". What's new in the latest legislation is that you now have to wear one in the transport hub before boarding or after disembarkation.

It's clear that stations, airport terminals and ferry terminals count as transport hubs. It's not explicitly stated that bus stations or cable car terminals count, but public transport services are defined as "any service for the carriage of passengers from place to place which is available to the general public" so I guess they do. As for station platforms, tram stops and bus shelters... well, let's dig further.

An essential feature of transport hubs is that the legislation only applies to "any enclosed part". A further sub-definition is required, and this piggybacks on existing legislation.
Premises are “enclosed” if they would be considered enclosed or substantially enclosed for the purposes of section 2 of the Health Act 2006(2), under the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006.
"Enclosed" is easy.
(1) Premises are enclosed if they—
(a) have a ceiling or roof; and
(b) except for doors, windows and passageways, are wholly enclosed either permanently or temporarily.
This covers a lot of stations, especially tube stations and mainline termini. Once you walk through the entrance into the enclosed building, it's masks on. But you can no doubt think of several stations, perhaps in the suburbs or rural areas, where you don't need to walk inside anything to access the platforms, in which case your mask only needs to go on when you step aboard the train.

"Substantially enclosed" is more complicated.
(2) Premises are substantially enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof but there is—
(a) an opening in the walls; or
(b) an aggregate area of openings in the walls, which is less than half of the area of the walls, including other structures that serve the purpose of walls and constitute the perimeter of the premises.
(3) In determining the area of an opening or an aggregate area of openings for the purposes of paragraph (2), no account is to be taken of openings in which there are doors, windows or other fittings that can be opened or shut
(4) In this regulation “roof” includes any fixed or moveable structure or device which is capable of covering all or part of the premises as a roof, including, for example, a canvas awning.
In short, if it has a roof and at least half the perimeter is wall then you have to put your mask on.

A waiting shelter on a railway platform probably counts. An open platform probably doesn't, even if it has a canopy across the top. A bus station might or might not count, depending on the design. The more walls your bus shelter has, the more likely that it's substantially enclosed.

These definitions are all based on legislation introduced when smoking was banned in public places, so you might assume that mask-wearing simply boils down to whether smoking would be legal or not. Not so. Back in 2007 National Rail chose to ban smoking across the entirety of their estate, not just the enclosed and substantially enclosed bits.
"Smoking will be prohibited on all station concourses, ticket halls, on platforms – covered and uncovered - and footbridges and subways at station premises"
So did TfL.
There is currently a no smoking policy in place on all London Underground lines and stations.
From 1 July 2007, all tram stops will become non-smoking.
From 1 July 2007, all London River Services' piers will become non-smoking.
What's more TfL recognised that some bus shelters count as "substantially enclosed" and some don't, so for simplicity's sake they banned smoking in all of them.
"The Department of Health's 'Health Act' specifies there should be no smoking in substantially enclosed structures. To avoid confusion, and for the comfort of all our passengers, TfL will be applying the new regulations at all London Buses premises, including the 12,000 bus shelters in the Capital."
In 2020 TfL have again chosen to apply the rules on face coverings to all their stations and platforms, open or otherwise, as part of their conditions of travel. Stickers at every entrance make this clear, as do printed notices signed off by the Commissioner. TfL have additionally insisted that face coverings attach behind the ears or tie behind the head, which is noticeably stronger than the national legislation. Their byelaws, their prerogative.

National Rail are a little less presumptive, and only refer to "enclosed areas".
"In England and Scotland, face coverings are mandatory on board the train and in all enclosed areas of railway stations, from when you enter a station, throughout your journey and exiting the station at the other end. If you are then moving onto the bus, tram or tube, you should avoid taking off your face covering while interchanging and avoid touching your face or mouth unnecessarily."
If I've understood this correctly, at fully enclosed stations like St Pancras or City Thameslink you need to wear a face covering at all times. At stations like Clapham Junction you need to wear your face covering in the ticket halls, on the footbridges and down the stairs but not on the platforms because they're not "substantially enclosed". At fully outdoor stations like Berney Arms, Castle Bar Park and Haydons Road, however, you don't need to cover your face at all. Obviously if you're about to get on a train you're going to have to wear a mask for that, but legally speaking there's no need beforehand.

I'm less certain what the situation is if you want to walk through a station without travelling anywhere. I walked across Star Lane DLR station on the day the legislation came in, using it as a footbridge to avoid a five minute detour. The walkway is open to the sky, so not enclosed and not legally restricted, but I still passed TfL warning stickers at both ends.

I've also noticed that TfL haven't urged passengers to wear face coverings in bus shelters. Many bus shelters have walls on more than two sides, so count as "substantially enclosed" according to the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006. They're also "premises from which a public transport service operates", so should count as transport hubs under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020, but nobody seems to be enforcing this aspect of the legislation.

In short the legal position is that face coverings must be worn in "relevant places", and the more you drill down into what a relevant place actually is the more uncertain it becomes. But if you stick to the headlines about always wearing them on public transport and in shops, you won't go far wrong. Don't start measuring the walls and arguing that you know better.

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