Mask use in public transport likely to become mandatory

Wellington, November 16, 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (RNZ Photo by Samuel Rillstone)

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has denied that the government has been too slow to mandate use of masks in public places.

The State Cabinet will meet today to discuss making masks mandatory on Auckland public transport and in all domestic flights.

Mask-wearing is currently only required on planes and public transport at Level 2 and above but a mystery case in Auckland last week meant that Aucklanders were asked to wear them on public transport.

Ms Ardern told Morning Report that the government has continued to make adjustments to the Covid-19 response as it has learnt more about the virus.

“We are moving on this. It is a big difference between mandating something. It means that people for instance who have not got a mask with them or a face covering at any given time could be excluded from using public transport. We do not take those decisions lightly,” she said.

Ms Ardern said that it is very hard to trace people on buses.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker believes clear rules around mask-use will help dampen the threat of community transmission and avoid another lockdown.

“We do have masks as part of our response at different alert levels and hence we built into the system some time ago. It is all about where we are in our risk level. We absolutely accept that mask use when you are in a position, as we are for instance at Level 2 where we have different restrictions. Level 1 has always been designed to acknowledge that actually the level of risk is lower, that’s why we’re at level 1, we don’t see cases in the community and so on,” she said.

Ms Ardern said that the government can now manage well when cases are found in the community without moving up alert levels.

Mask use has been continuously encouraged, she said.

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