Wellington, Aug 27 (IANS) Wearing a face covering on public transport is the right thing to do and will help keep the citizens of New Zealand safe from Covid-19, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday.
From August 31, it will be compulsory for everyone aged 12 and over to wear a face covering on public transport and planes under Alert Level 2, with certain exemptions for health, disability and practicality reasons, Hipkins said in a 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,” Xinhua news agency quoted the Minister as saying.
The Alert Level 1 is close to a normal situation, while Level 2 requires people to be cautious and maintain physical distancing.
According to the new rule, face coverings on public transport and planes are required 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.
“If you don't have a mask you can use a scarf or bandana.”
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 centres and regions where there is public transport.
Passengers in smaller vehicles, like cabs, do not need to wear masks, but drivers will be required it, he said.
Not wearing a face covering on public transport will become an offence, punishable by a NZ$300 infringement notice or a fine of up to NZ$1,000 imposed by the courts.
The country's total number of confirmed cases is now 1,351.