Transport for London (TfL) has apologised after it posted a tweet calling passengers who do not wear face coverings ‘selfish’, without acknowledging that some people are exempt from the requirement.
The tweet was posted on Thursday (8 October) as part of a publicity drive and enforcement campaign ‘targeting people ignoring the law and risking Londoners' health’.
It said that although the majority of people were complying with the rules, ‘our enforcement officers and the police are targeting the selfish minority who aren’t wearing them, or who are wearing them incorrectly’.
The tweet provoked a backlash from some Twitter users, who pointed out that many passengers are unable to wear face coverings for a variety of reasons, including medical reasons, and are legally exempt.
Although a TfL press release issued on the same day also used the phrase ‘selfish minority’, this referred to people who ‘continue to put public health at risk by flouting the law’.
The press release acknowledged that since June, ‘it has been mandatory for customers to wear a face covering…unless they are exempt’.
A TfL spokesperson said: ‘We apologise for the tweet regarding the enforcement of face coverings. There are of course, many customers who are legitimately exempt from wearing a face covering and we are sorry this was not acknowledged.
‘We intended to draw attention to the work we are undertaking with the police to target the minority of people who are not exempt and refuse to wear a face covering. We realise the tweet failed to do that and we sincerely apologise.’
The spokesperson added: ‘To support customers who are exempt we have an exemption card or badge that customers can obtain via the TfL website.
‘These can make it easier for enforcement staff and the police to know who should and shouldn’t wear a face covering. It is not a requirement to carry one but staff are informing customers who are exempt about their availability should they choose to do so.’
TfL said that since July, when it moved to an enforcement phase after previously explaining the requirement and encouraging compliance, officers have carried out around 105,000 interventions with people not wearing a face covering or not wearing it in the correct way, with the majority complying after being spoken to.
Around 7,600 people were stopped from boarding and 1,800 removed from services. TfL officers issued around 400 fines to people refusing to comply.
Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England, said: 'Wearing a face covering is one of the simple steps we can take to protect each other from coronavirus - the best evidence shows that covering your nose and mouth reduces the risk of passing on the virus to those near us.’