There’s been a bit of confusion about the rules around masks and public transport.
I’m not here to speculate on whether the rules are needed. I’m not an epidemiologist and probably neither are you. While there’s been no COVID-19 community spread in Victoria for many weeks, the recent case of the gentleman who unwittingly caught it in Adelaide hotel quarantine and then used Craigieburn line trains, travelling home with footy fans, is probably exactly the scenario authorities feared.
On the station?
The prominent signage (though on the trains is a bit lacking) should mean it’s pretty clear we’re meant to be wearing masks while travelling on public transport. But what about on the stations?
From Geelong Bay FM a few weeks ago:
Masks must be donned before entering train stations…Bay FM: 14/4/2021: Geelong line mask crackdown
And this yesterday, with the Public Transport Ombudsman tweeting a Herald Sun story implying that masks are required at stations.
From the Herald Sun report:
Commuters will need to wear their masks on the station platform as well as on the train and bus as the State Government pushes for greater COVID protection.Herald Sun: Masks on and off the train, says Department of Transport
But the report doesn’t say there’s a change to the rules – it just references a Department Of Transport bulk email sent out to people last week reminding people to wear masks on public transport.
What the rules say
So what do the Stay Safe Directions (in other words, the law) say?
The Directions say you must wear a mask while on public transport or in a commercial passenger vehicle, and public transport is specifically defined on page 11:
public transport means a vehicle operated by a passenger transportVictoria: Stay Safe Directions number 21 (effective 7/5/2021)
company or by a bus company in the provision of a public transport
So, on vehicles. No mention of stations, which appear to fall under the rules covered more broadly when you leave your place of residence or work – that you need to carry a mask, but not wear it.
Here’s the official PTV advice:
When travelling on public transport you must wear a fitted face mask covering your nose and mouth and ensure you wear it for your entire journey. It is also strongly recommended you wear a face mask when you cannot maintain 1.5 metres distance from other people, such as at busy stations and stops.PTV: Wearing a face mask on public transport
The point here isn’t that wearing masks are compulsory at stations, it’s that if the station is packed, it’s recommended that you wear one. Which makes sense.
So, keep that mask handy for when you’re on board, and if the stop/station is crowded.
And travel safe, everybody.
Update 24/5/2021: Starting today, police and PSO are patrolling and handing out masks, and potentially fining people who refuse to wear them.