Masks are now mandatory on public transport in Auckland.
Previously, masks were recommended for public transport and only required in areas under alert level two.
The widespread adoption of face coverings across public transport in New Zealand had allowed for capacity limits to be lifted from September, with physical distancing no longer required.
Passengers are still being encouraged to scan QR codes on trains via the COVID-19 app and register their AT HOP card to help with contact tracing.
“Adding mask wearing to the toolbox of measures against the virus is a sensible precaution and the time is right to make the move,’ said Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins.
When Auckland returned to alert level one in October masks were no longer required, however since then there have been a handful of reported cases of COVID-19 in the community.
Hipkins said mask wearing would help avoid returning to lockdown measures.
“We’re in a much better position to avoid blunt and costly lockdowns by being able to control the spread of the virus with a flexible mix of measures that best fit the situation,” he said.
“In this light, and taking all factors into account, we’ve determined that now is the right time to make mask use mandatory in these situations. It will provide another line of defence, is a low-cost and practical option and presents a minor inconvenience by comparison.”
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the mandate, along with other precautionary measures.
“Widespread wearing of masks is one way that we can reduce the chances of further community transmission of COVID-19 and avoid having to go back into lockdown,” Goff said on Monday.
“Wearing a mask while on public transport will soon be compulsory and should be part of everyone’s standard practice, alongside not going to work when you have cold or flu-like symptoms, regular handwashing, cough/sneeze etiquette and keeping track of your location.”
After the first morning of mandatory mask wearing, Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison on Thursday thanked Aucklanders for following the new mandate.
“I’d like to thank Aucklanders for doing the right thing. At Britomart this morning between 90 and 95 per cent of people are wearing face coverings which is great.”