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Corona face mask obligation in German public transport – Interview with a transport operator where this is already a reality

Starting on Aptil 27th, the Face Mask is required in all public transport across Germany I Foto: NahverkehrHAMBURG

Starting on April 27th, the wearing of face masks is mandatory in all public transport in Germany. Our partner magazine, NahverkehrHAMBURG undertook an Interview with a transport operator where such a mask requirement is already a reality. The aim of the mask requirement is to gradually remove the restrictions on public life during the Corona crisis in Germany. The recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldia, was an important basis for decision-making. The paper recommends, among other things, a mask obligation on buses and trains: “Wearing mouth-nose protection should be made an additional measure in certain areas such as public transport,” the document said literally. There is also a recommendation at European level for wearing in public transport. This emerges from an internal draft of guidelines for the gradual abolition of corona emergency measures.

What does a mask requirement look like? What is the response from the passengers and how could corresponding controls look like? It is worth taking a look to Jena in Thuringia where a mask requirement has been in force on buses and trains for several weeks already. In an interview with NahverkehrHAMBURG, the spokeswoman for Jenaer Nahverkehr GmbH, Anja Tautenhahn, talks about initial practical experience, communication measures, controls and why the driving personnel does not wear a face mask.

NahverkehrHAMBURG: Ms. Tautenhahn, you operate five tram and 13 bus lines in Jena – how well do your passengers comply with the obligation to wear a face mask?

Anja Tautenhahn: Our passengers are very solidary and wear their mouth-nose protection almost without restrictions. This is easy to implement as self-made masks, neckerchiefs or scarves are also accepted. A large-scale communication and urban campaign preceded this, so that everyone had received the information about wearing a mouth and nose protector before the start date (April 6th). This is also indicated in the vehicles by notices.

NahverkehrHAMBURG: What about passengers without a mask? Are they not accepted in public transport vehicles? And do you hand out masks to these people?

Anja Tautenhahn: The control of the “mask obligation” is checked by the municipal order service of the city of Jena. Local transport in Jena does not issue masks. All passengers in Jena are obliged to carry mouth-nose protection with them. This also applies when entering shops.

NahverkehrHAMBURG: How do you control compliance with the mask requirement in buses and trains?

Anja Tautenhahn: The control of the “mask obligation” is checked by the municipal order service of the city of Jena.

Passengers have to wear face masks whereas the personnel is not required to wear such masks according to German traffic law I © Klaus Jördens

NahverkehrHAMBURG : Do passengers have the right to cancel their season tickets if they are currently unable to use public transport due to the lack of a mask?

Anja Tautenhahn: Since mouth-nose protection can be ensured with the simplest of means, no passenger is obliged to question their subscription. If someone still cannot or does not want to use their subscription, there is the option to cancel it (a cancellation by the 10th of the month takes effect at the end of the month).

NahverkehrHAMBURG: To what extent do your drivers wear masks on trains and buses?

Anja Tautenhahn: The obligation to wear mouth-nose protection does not apply to our drivers when driving vehicles. This is derived from section 23 (4) of the StVO (“ban on masking”). Precautions such as the guaranteed minimum distance from the passengers minimize the risk of infection with the corona virus for the driver.

Majority of NahverkehrHAMBURG reader supports mask requirement

And how do the NahverkehrHAMBURG readers stand on the topic? NahverkehrHAMBURG asked its readers via Facebook and Twitter. Result: A clear majority supports a mask requirement on buses and trains. On Twitter, 71 percent of 225 respondents voted in favor of a mask, 29 percent rejected it. On Facebook, 60 percent of 463 respondents advocated a mask obligation in public transport, 40 percent opposed it.

Mask duty: BVG in Berlin takes the subject humourously

One thing is certain: a corona mask requirement in local public transport is a noticeable change. This would make the stigma of a dangerous place with which buses and trains currently afflicted visible to everyone. This is a delicate step for the image of public transport, which should pose challenges for the marketing departments of transport operators. Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) is already showing a solution here by trying to take the subject of mouth protection with humor. The company launched a call on Instagram yesterday to post mask selfies.

This article has been first published by our cooperation partner NahverkehrHAMBURG.de. Click here for further mobility news from Hamburg and its metropolis: https://www.nahverkehrhamburg.de/