Northlanders are being asked to do their bit to protect themselves and others from Covid-19 and follow new central government rules making it compulsory to wear masks on the region’s public transport from Monday, August 31.
John Bain, who chairs the Northland Regional Transport Committee, says face coverings – which can include a mask, scarf or similar – will be mandatory on public transport from 31 August for regions in Alert Level 2 or higher. Children under 12 are exempt and not required to wear masks.
Councillor Bain says while many of those using the public transport network in Northland would be Whangarei residents using the CityLink bus service, the rules applied to other public transport too.
“In Northland these include Mid North Link, Hokianga Link, Far North Link and Bream Bay Link. For Total Mobility vehicles (which include taxi companies, Driving Miss Daisy and smaller vans) face coverings don’t need to be worn by passengers under the new rules, but their drivers must. There are also exemptions for people with a disability or physical or mental health condition which makes covering their face inappropriate.”
Councillor Bain says face masks won’t be provided by the services and if users don’t have a mask, they can use other suitable and properly-worn face coverings, including scarfs and other appropriate face coverings.
“Masks and face coverings limit the chance of Covid-19 spreading in places and situations like public transport where it’s often harder for people to distance themselves from people they don’t know.”
He says while compulsory mask use won’t necessarily find favour with everyone and may take some getting used to, it’s important to remember their use is part of the nation’s evolving response to the Covid epidemic and has been recommended by the country’s health experts.
“We’re hoping that all public transport users will do their bit and follow the new rules and not make life unnecessarily difficult and/or potentially risky for service operators and of course other passengers. Protect others, protect yourself.”
Councillor Bain says operators and drivers are not expected to assume the role of enforcement officers and won’t be required to refuse entry to those not wearing a mask. However, anyone caught by police not wearing a mask without a reasonable excuse can be instantly fined $300 or fined up to $1000 imposed through the courts.
Locally, security arrangements will also be in place to ensure transport users are aware of the requirement for coverings.
Even with the new mask rules, Cr Bain says existing social distancing conditions will still apply, including a requirement for people to stay at least one metre apart on public transport.
Meanwhile, Councillor Bain says while much of the public and media focus is currently on the new mask restrictions themselves, he also wanted to take the opportunity to thank those driving the buses and other forms of transport.
“Our bus and other public transport drivers were at the forefront of those helping essential workers and others who needed vital transport throughout the first lockdown.”
“Even though Northland is currently not facing the most severe Covid-related restrictions, transport workers are again at the forefront of our region’s Covid response and I’d like to express my thanks to them – both personally and in my role as a regional councillor – for their hard work and professionalism.”
More information – including Frequently Asked Questions – about the about the new rules on face masks on public transport at Alert level 2 is available online via nrc.govt.nz/facemaskFAQs
John Bain, who chairs the Northland Regional Transport Committee.