Mandatory masks expanded to ships, trains, planes, buses

The federal government has expanded requirements for the use of face-coverings on planes, trains, ships and transit in an attempt to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Wednesday new measures for all transportation sectors, and vowed to work with the provinces and industry on instituting new practices in sectors that have not already imposed such rules.

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“My top concern continues to be the well-being of the transportation workers and the travelling public. The measures we are putting in place today will further reduce the risk of transmission,” said Garneau.

“The use of face-coverings can limit the transmission of the virus where physical-distancing cannot be maintained.”

The new rules mean that as of noon today, airline flight crews and airport workers will be required to wear non-medical masks. Previously only passengers were subject to that rule.

All workers in the marine transportation sector will have to possess a face-covering, with the recommendation it be worn when physical-distancing cannot be maintained.

Randy Wright, president of Harbour Air Group, said the new rules will mean few changes at their terminals on either side of Georgia Strait. “We’ve been doing it way before the mandate came down,” he said, adding the company ordered its personal protective equipment before there was a rush.

Deborah Marshall, executive director of public affairs for B.C. Ferries, said from the outset of the pandemic, its workers have been able to wear a face-covering if they wanted. B.C. Ferries is working to implement the new recommendations from Transport Canada for employees and customers, she said.

As far as road transportation is concerned, Garneau announced the government intends to establish, in collaboration with industry and the provinces, a set of practices for the use of personal protective equipment, including face-coverings, for an industry that includes trucking, motor coaches and transit.

Dave Earle, chief executive of the B.C. Trucking Association, said there was nothing in Garneau’s announcement the industry wasn’t ready for and willing to do. “In terms of the ability for the industry to continue to operate, frankly we will do what we need to do,” he said, adding most of his industry is already way ahead of the game.

“We recognize that what government is establishing as a minimum is not what we as an industry will need to succeed,” he said. “To succeed, we have to provide an environment where workers and customers feel confident they can work safely and where customers feel comfortable.”

To that end, he noted they have been working on protocol for inter-city and charter bus services — most trucking firms and drivers already wear protective gear — as well as eliminating situations where the virus could easily be transmitted.

The new guidelines issued Wednesday will require rail operators to notify passengers they will be asked to wear a face-covering when physical-distancing of two metres from others cannot be maintained. Rail workers must also have access to face-coverings and wear it when physical-distancing cannot be maintained.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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