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Coronavirus: Masks mandatory on B.C. transit, ferries, starting Monday

Click to play video 'Mandatory Masks: Translink riders have to mask up' Mandatory Masks: Translink riders have to mask up
Mandatory Masks: Translink riders have to mask up – Aug 24, 2020

Starting Monday, anyone taking public transit or a ferry in B.C. will need to make sure they’re packing a mask with them.

In an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19, masks will become mandatory on those modes of transportation as of Aug. 24.

Read more: ‘This is not the time to be selfish’: How face masks became a mirror of humanity amid COVID-19

That includes SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express and HandyDart, as well as both TransLink and BC Transit Buses.

Click to play video 'TransLink announces mandatory face masks on Metro Vancouver transit' TransLink announces mandatory face masks on Metro Vancouver transit
TransLink announces mandatory face masks on Metro Vancouver transit – Aug 6, 2020

On BC Ferries, passengers will be required to wear a mask unless they have a medical condition or disability, are inside their vehicle, are a child aged two or younger or are eating.

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“The message from TransLink is very clear: come tomorrow, it’s no longer an ask — you must wear a mask,” said TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy.

Read more: What sex ed can teach us about getting people to wear face masks

Wearing a non-medical mask does little to prevent the person wearing it from contracting the coronavirus, but research shows that they are effective in helping stop people who have the virus from spreading it to others by catching potentially infected droplets.

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University of Alberta prof debunks COVID-19 mask conspiracies – Aug 9, 2020

Mask wearing in public places is not mandatory in B.C., but a growing number of private businesses and agencies are requiring people to wear them in order to access services.

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B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says physical distancing and hand hygiene remain the most important tools to stop COVID-19, but recommends the use of masks in situations where distancing is not possible.

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People who break TransLink’s mask rule could eventually be hit with a $150 fine, but Murphy said staff will be focusing on education rather than enforcement in the early days.

Read more: Mask myths, debunked: No, wearing a mask won’t ‘shut down’ your immune system

Front-line transit staff will not be asked to become “mask police,” he added. “We want to make sure people understand this is a new rule coming into effect.

“We would hope that this becomes like picking up your keys or your mobile phone before you leave the home, you just do it and it becomes second nature.”

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COVID-19 recovery: BC Ferries get federal ‘Safe Restart’ cash – Aug 11, 2020

David Cooper, a consultant with Leading Mobility, said the goal of the new policy is both to help with safety and to help build confidence in the transit system and boost ridership.

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“It really aligns with the best practice we’ve seen in transit agencies across Canada and the world, it’s become quite normalized to wear masks in public spaces and it’s especially important in spaces where physical distancing is not possible,” he said.

TransLink says it has already handed out 10,000 free masks, and will dole out another 20,000 in the coming weeks.

Staff are also posting thousands of new signs around the transit system to help educate people about the new rules.