16 Nov 2020

Cabinet to decide on mandatory mask use on Auckland public transport and domestic flights

6:19 am on 16 November 2020

Cabinet will today consider whether to make masks mandatory on all domestic flights, and all public transport in Auckland.

A young woman wearing a face mask at a bus stop.

The move would be a step up from the existing alert level criteria, which sees mask-wearing mandatory on planes and public transport at level 2 and above. Photo: AFP

If it is agreed, it would mark a step up from the existing alert level criteria, which sees mask-wearing mandatory on planes and public transport at level 2 and above.

After a mystery Covid-19 case popped up in Auckland last week, its residents were asked to wear masks on public transport.

But yesterday in Britomart, some bus users said up to 50 percent of their fellow passengers were without masks.

Commuter Simon Adams said he supported a law change, to prompt bigger uptake.

"If more people are wearing masks, I guess it'd probably make me feel a bit more comfortable," he said.

Auckland resident David Blackford said he was "totally, one hundred percent" behind a mask mandate for confined spaces.

"It makes total sense, and it's a small price to pay so we don't have to go into any of these lockdowns anymore," he said.

Francisco said people only needed to think about the city's 18 managed isolation facilities to see why it was a reasonable measure.

"There is probably people around the corner with Covid, so yes... and it's not like my rights are being infringed because I have to use this [mask]. Of course I support it."

It also had the yes vote from Mandy Kirk, however she wanted to see it extended to school buses.

"Even when we did have to wear masks on public transport, school busses were packed with 30-plus children. And not a single mask," she said.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said similar measures could still be on the way for the rest of the country - particularly other places with managed isolation facilities.

Chris Hipkins

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is taking an order to Cabinet to make mask wearing mandatory on public transport in the Auckland region and on flights. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

In the meantime, Cabinet will also be considering making masks mandatory on domestic flights right across the country today.

That measure also had the support of David Blackford and his wife Tracy.

"It's no big deal. New Zealand's small enough. You're only in a plane for a maximum of an hour and a half so what's the big deal, right?" he said.

"My son came up from Christchurch and I rang and made sure that he had a mask. He said he was probably one of the only people that had them on but yeah, I'd definitely advocate using them," Tracy said.

Enforcement proved a sticking point the last time masks were mandatory on busses, under alert levels 2 and 3.

The unions agreed with operators like Auckland Transport that it was impossible for bus and train drivers to police the rule.

Cabinet will also have to look at what kind of penalties people could face, if they don't wear a mask - and Simon Adams said he didn't want passengers being lumped with steep fines.

"It's quite a big change for people's daily lives. I don't know if penalties should really be that harsh, at all," he said.

If Cabinet agrees on the new mask order, it will also announce a start date which could be as soon as Thursday.

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