COVID-19

Shock number of fines for mask-dodgers

Maskless commuters sometimes outnumber those who are obeying the state’s pandemic orders and covering up. Authorised officers have also spoken to more than 66,000 passengers on trains, trams and buses about correctly wearing a mask. And more than 59,000 free masks have been handed out in five months. But one fine is being handed out every second day on average since February 14. Before then, Victoria Police had responsibility for mask enforcement on public transport after the introduction of the Covid-19 pandemic-related laws.Police issued more than 3000 penalty notices for public health breaches on transport, mostly failure to wear a mask, during all of last year and until mid-February.Failing or refusing to wear a fitted mask on the public transport network attracts a fine of $100 for an adult.Passenger numbers continue to be well down on pre-pandemic levels as workers and shoppers shun trains, trams and buses for fear of catching Covid or even the flu. The Department of Transport’s chief of network operations Brett Langley said wearing a mask on public transport helped to keep each other safe during Covid-19 as well as the flu season.“Passengers are currently required to wear a fitted face mask covering their nose and mouth while travelling on all forms of public transport, unless a passenger has a valid exemption,” Mr Langley said.Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said it was noticeable that mask compliance had declined in recent months.“They need to do better with signage and messaging on Metro Trains. I think other modes are better with that messaging,’’ Mr Bowen said.Mask compliance seemed higher during peak periods but dropped off at other times, he said.Earlier research by the Department of Transport during the pandemic revealed that the travelling public wanted mask compliance and were frustrated when fellow commuters were not wearing masks or not wearing them properly.

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