London, Ont. transit requests riders wear face coverings when possible

With federal public health officials now officially recommending that people wear non-medical masks to help protect others from the novel coronavirus in situations where physical distancing isn’t possible, the London Transit Commission (LTC) in Ontario is requesting the same of its riders.

In a tweet Wednesday, the LTC asked that riders consider wearing a face covering where physical distancing is not possible.

The request for use of face coverings is on top of previous measures the LTC has taken in an effort to suppress the spread of the virus.

Riders have been asked to board buses through the rear door since March 20, which has also resulted in a moratorium on the collection of fares. At an emergency meeting on April 17, the LTC approved a motion to install barriers around drivers.

“It’s a recommendation that I think is a good one,” said councillor and LTC chair Phil Squire.

“We’ll be meeting next week to determine if it’s going to be something we require.”

LTC General Manager Kelly Paleczny notes it’s “next to impossible” to ensure physical distancing in a public transit setting.

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“I understand that it can be frustrating because we’ve heard so many different recommendations with regard to masks over the last couple of months,” she said.

“If we can convince our customers to think about not just protecting themselves but protecting their fellow riders as well and at the end of the day if everybody buys into it we’re all protecting one another, we’re all a community on the bus, and that will be the best situation for everyone.”

Meanwhile, public health officials and advocates have also stressed the importance of recognizing not everyone is able to safely wear face coverings. For example, Asthma Canada president and CEO Vanessa Foran said simply wearing a mask could create risk of an asthma attack and said if a mask inhibits the ability of someone to breathe in any way, they recommend not wearing one.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

–With files from Global News’ Beatrice Britneff and The Canadian Press’ Donna Spencer.

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