Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
201. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he is satisfied at levels of compliance with the requirement to wear face masks on public transport; if his Department and the CIÉ group of companies are monitoring compliance with and enforcement of the regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62465/21]
As Minister for Transport, I am responsible for the policy and overall funding of public transport. The National Transport Authority is responsible for the day-to-day operations of public transport in conjunction with the public transport operators.
The Regulations for the mandatory wearing of face coverings on public transport were introduced under Health legislation on 10 July and came into effect on Monday 13 July 2020, and were recently extended to February 2022. These Regulations require passengers, with some exceptions, to wear face coverings while utilising public transport and gives additional protection to both passengers and transport staff.
The Regulations are implementable by a “relevant person” who is defined as any officer, employee or agent of a public transport operator or of the NTA. A relevant person implementing the Regulations can seek the assistance of An Garda Síochána where needed. Where a passenger is not wearing a face covering, a relevant person under the Regulations may:
- request the passenger to wear a face covering;
- refuse the passenger entry to the public transport vehicle; or
- request the passenger to alight from the vehicle.
Failure to comply is an offence and there are penalties (on summary conviction) for non-compliance.
Public health advice tells us that face coverings are an important safety measure, especially in interior spaces, but that they not suitable for every individual. Recognising this, the Regulations do not apply to children under the age of 13. On a temporary basis, subject to review in mid-February 2022, the wearing of face masks/coverings will be recommended for children:
- aged 9 years and over on public transport, in retail and other indoor public settings as currently required for those aged 13 and over, with exemptions as appropriate.
Reflecting public health advice, the Regulations also allow that wearing a face covering is not required where a person has a “reasonable excuse".
People understand the importance of protecting their fellow passengers and the staff of the public transport operators. It is not intended that enforcement or penalties will be needed often, but they are available if necessary. The NTA is engaging regularly with public transport operators regarding implementation of the Regulations, and monitoring compliance levels across the network.
My Department and the NTA take the safety of both passengers and transport workers very seriously, and are continuing to monitor the effects of the measures in place very closely, in conjunction with public transport operators.