Why is it still compulsory to wear a mask on public transport?

March 2022

The wearing of masks indoors is over! Except in health institutions and public transport. But why is it still necessary to wear a mask on public transport? What does it protect us from? We explain.

What does the law say?

Since 17 February in Switzerland and 14 March in France, the Swiss Federal Council and the French Government have lifted most of the health restrictions that had applied since the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic.

This decision concerns in particular the most emblematic or, at least, the most visible of these measures: the wearing of masks indoors. With two exceptions for France: in health establishments and on public transport.

Wearing a mask is therefore still compulsory when going for a consultation, visiting a patient or a resident in a health establishment or in homes for the elderly. Of course, the measure also concerns all caregivers and employees in these places.

The obligation to wear a respiratory mask is also maintained in public transport for all users, from the age of 6. The term “indoor public transport” means

>I Buses and coaches (including school transport),

>I Trams and metros,

>I Trains (both suburban and mainline),

>I Aeroplanes.

We remind those who forget that wearing a mask is compulsory on public transport that they are always liable to a fine (135 euros everywhere in France).

Viral transmission and public transport

While we can drop our masks in restaurants, cinemas, museums and at work (except in special cases), why must we remain masked in public transport? The two culprits are: lack of distance and ventilation.

The main mode of transmission of the Covid-19 virus (and of all coronaviruses) is well known. An infected person emits micro-droplets of virus through the mouth and nose when breathing, and even more so when talking, singing, coughing and sneezing. Another person standing less than 2 metres away can inhale these aerosols and become infected.

In most cases, passengers travelling on public transport are unable to keep this distance. Anyone who has ever survived a journey in a metro train at rush hour knows this nightmarish feeling!

Ventilation is an effective way of dispersing micro-droplets in an enclosed space, and thus reducing the risk of transmission of airborne viruses. But here again, the recommendation to ventilate confined spaces for 10 minutes every hour is not applicable in all public transport, far from it.

There is one solution: wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 NR mask in all public transport. The aerosol filtering capacity of a mask makes it an effective barrier indoors when distancing and ventilation are impossible.

Moreover, even without a pandemic, it has been found that wearing a mask in public transport and all high-traffic areas (especially for people who are fragile or showing infectious symptoms) is a useful public health measure.


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