Photograph: Sky News
‘Government advice’ and ‘scientific advice’ has become a little bit like the Bible. You can quote it to support any argument you want to make. Take face masks. The advice from scientists has been ‘mixed’, until now, when the Government needs to restart the economy. Two weeks ago, when more than 30 countries, including Germany, had already made it mandatory for the public to cover their faces outdoors, our government was saying there was not enough evidence to support such a move here. Now Boris Johnson has said that homemade masks should be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible or where you may come into contact with people from outside of your household.
I thought I would just ring South West Trains Customer Service line to find out how often the trains were running and how they were implementing social distancing. I was met with this voicemail message:
‘In line with the latest Government advice, we are not taking calls at this time’.
I doubt the Government has banned rail companies from giving out customer service advice about train times in the week people are being encouraged to go back to work, but maybe that’s not quite what she meant.
National Rail enquiries tell me that until 15 May trains between Chiswick and Waterloo are scheduled to run every half an hour at peak times, but when I tried to ask about how they are able to enforce social distancing, whether numbers on trains or on platforms would be limited, I got no answer beyond ‘keep six feet part’. The Customer Relations office at National Rail is also closed. Waterloo station had every other bench taped off to prevent people sitting next to each other,
Tube services are running at 5% capacity to adhere to social distancing rules, according to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and London buses are operating at 10% capacity. Mayor Khan has also said social distancing would be impossible on London’s public transport, which seems self-evidently true. That didn’t stop commuters crowding on to some tube trains in London yesterday. For all the platitudes, we have yet to see how we can square the circle and actually travel across London on public transport safely.
Images above: Inside a London tube train, 11 May @Nicv27; Woman wearing a face mask in Chiswick High Rd, 11 May
Doctor James Wilson, 29, who works at West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth, told the Metro he was ‘very nervous’ about how his commute would change over the coming weeks.
‘Based on what we have been seeing in London over the past few weeks about some people not following the rules, I am not sure they will follow the two-metre distancing rule when travelling’ he said.
Gerry Tiernan, travelling from Brentford to Canning Town, said:
‘I am surprised at the amount of people who aren’t wearing masks at the moment. ‘It has been great travelling when no-one is around, but it is going to get busier now. It’s going to be pure luck as to whether you get it (Covid-19) or not’.
On Saturday, which was nice and sunny, the riverbank at Chiswick Mall was heaving and people were enjoying picnics in the gardens of Chiswick House, having already taken their lead from last week’s newspapers that the pressure was off.
From now on we will have to wear masks on public transport and in some shops, according to the Government guidelines published yesterday. The Department of Health said that after considering the latest scientific advice from Sage, they’ve decided face coverings can help reduce the spread of Covid-19.