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New Zealand outlines use of face coverings on public transport

(Xinhua)    15:05, August 27, 2020

WELLINGTON, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Wearing a face covering on public transport is the right thing to do and will help keep New Zealanders safe from COVID-19, New Zealand's Health Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday.

From Monday, it will be compulsory for everyone aged 12 and over to wear a face covering on public transport and planes under Alert Level 2 and above, with certain exemptions for health, disability and practicality reasons, Hipkins told a daily COVID-19 briefing.

"This is a big change and will take some getting used to but it is a small thing we can all do that helps us get back to the freedoms of Level 1," Hipkins said.

The COVID-19 Alert Level 1 is close to a normal situation, while Level 2 requires people to be cautious about the epidemic and maintain physical distancing. According to the new rule, face coverings on public transport and planes are needed under Alert Level 2 and above.

"The advice from health officials is clear -- the use of face coverings can reduce the risk of people spreading COVID-19, particularly where it is hard to maintain physical distance from others. Masks and face coverings do not replace physical distancing -- they complement other public health measures," Hipkins said.

"We want to make this as easy as possible, so any form of face covering will do. If you don't have a mask you can use a scarf or bandana," the minister said.

"We encourage everyone to get three or four washable masks each and are also investigating the potential distribution of reusable masks to those most in need," he said.

The minister confirmed that the government will release a further 3 million masks for national distribution over the coming days as a one-off boost to immediate supply. This will be distributed among social services groups and community foodbanks in centers and regions where there is public transport.

"It will take time for people to adapt. Not everyone will have a face covering ready for the Monday morning commute but pretty quickly we will see face coverings become commonplace on public transport," Hipkins said.

Passengers of small passenger vehicles, such as taxis and uber, do not need to wear masks, but drivers will be required to wear masks, he said.

Not wearing a face covering on public transport will become an offence, punishable by a 300-NZ dollar (199 U.S. dollars) infringement notice or a fine of up to 1,000 NZ dollars imposed by the courts. Enforcement of the rules will be light touch -- starting with engagement, encouragement and education, the minister said.

The country's total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is now 1,351, which is the number reported to the World Health Organization.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Bianji)

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