London: Passengers without masks threatened with £200 fine at the start of the crackdown

TfL warned ‘our officers will continue to enforce the request’ (Image: LNP)

Commuters have been warned that Tube staff will start handing out £200 fines as part of a crackdown on law breakers wearing masks during London.

Face coverings have been made mandatory in stores and other establishments such as banks, post offices, hair salons and public transport in response to the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that fining customers who don’t wear them would ‘help a lot with compliance’.

Eight new cases of the worrying new strain of bacteria were identified in the UK on Tuesday, bringing the total in the UK to 22 cases.

Mr Khan welcomed the return of power to those who fined people for not wearing masks.

Those caught breaking the rules will be fined £200 for a first offense, doubled for each subsequent offense up to a maximum of £6,400.

The capital is the first city in the UK to insist they are worn after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in July.

But with no law allowing them to apply the rule, around 500 TfL enforcement officers had to try to ensure compliance without the help of British Transport Police.

Face coverings must be worn unless everyone is exempt (Image: Getty)
Enforcement officers remind people to wear masks on tubes at Victoria Station (Image: Alex Lentati/LNP)

Mr Khan told Sky News: ‘What’s really important is this, we know this rule change, with enforcement, the ability to introduce fines will lead to behavior change.

‘How do we know that? Because before July 19, roughly speaking, 85% of people using public transport wear masks. We issued almost 2,000 fines by July 19.

‘Since then, far fewer people have been told to leave because we have fewer people doing enforcement and no fines have been issued.’

As the new rules went into effect on Tuesday, Transport for London officers approached people not wearing masks and asked them to cover their faces.

TfL also wrote on Twitter: ‘You must wear a face covering on all our services unless exempt.

‘Our officers will continue to enforce the request, including reinstating TfL and police issuing a £200 fine for a first offense.’

Some train passengers protested the decision to reintroduce masks, while others criticized those who refused to cover their faces in enclosed spaces.

At Paddington station in central London, the vast majority of train travelers from Wales, west and south-west England wear face coverings when entering the station.

Others who came up from London Underground also wore masks. But a few people did not wear them inside the station.

A 56-year-old man and a 71-year-old woman, who requested anonymity and were walking from Paddington to West Drayton, said they should not wear masks.

The man, who said he was unvaccinated, said: ‘I think it’s horrible. There is no benefit. It’s a signal of virtue and there’s no point in wearing it.

‘It is trying to condition people to be controlled so that in the future we will all become a technocratic world. It’s about compliance and control to bring communism into this country – a form of communism, technocracy, is a form of communism. ‘

He added: ‘They are using this to force us all to be conditioned and controlled to ruin Christmas for everyone.’

Passengers make their way towards central London (Image: AFP via Getty)

Marc Zinnendor, who was traveling to Kingham in Oxfordshire, described the masks as a ‘polite visor’.

He said: ‘I find it upsetting (seeing people wearing masks), because humans are not programmed to fit into such a society.

‘Half of your face is gone. Now I can’t tell if you’re laughing or you’re angry. ‘

Financial services worker Michelle Carroll, 40, traveling to Westbury, in Wiltshire, said she was annoyed to see people not wearing masks.

She said: ‘It was furious. Everyone has choices and approaches about how they deal with these things. I just wish that people would understand their impact and not be so selfish.

‘I couldn’t change or convince them otherwise. But I’ll just keep doing what I want and try to keep as many people around me as close and safe as possible. ‘

A 62-year-old company director, who declined to be named and was traveling to Bristol, said people should wear masks “at all times” on trains.

He said: ‘As soon as I got on the train I put on a mask and wore it all the time. I have no problem wearing a mask in an enclosed space. I think not wearing a mask is very arrogant and inconsiderate. ‘

Shoppers in the London West End are seen wearing masks (Image: ZumaPress/Mega)

Meanwhile, a private healthcare nurse said she was very worried for Omicron and seeing people not wearing masks made her feel uncomfortable.

Andrea Andrades, who took the train to Paddington from Hayes in west London, said: ‘I don’t know what the new variant might do to me or my family.

‘Everyone needs to wear a mask. I think they forgot all the things we went through months ago. No one must forget that or those who have passed away. ‘

The PM insisted the ‘balanced and proportionate measures’ reintroduced this week will be reviewed in three weeks, just days before Christmas.

Another 159 coronavirus deaths and 39,716 new cases were reported yesterday – down from 42,484 infections and 165 deaths a week earlier.

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Huynh Nguyen

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