Lancashire County Council is urging pupils aged 11 and over to wear face coverings on school buses to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep children in school.
It is the law now for everyone aged 11 and over to wear face coverings on public buses and is currently advisory on school buses. However following reports that many high school aged children aren’t following the advice, Lancashire County Council is stressing the importance of wearing a face covering on all forms of public transport including school buses throughout the journey.
County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We have been working hard with schools since July to ensure they can reopen safely, but it’s important to minimise the potential for transmission outside of school, including journeys to and from school. Our priority is keeping schools open so children can continue their education and we all have a part to play. So we are asking pupils to take responsibility for wearing face coverings and calling on their parents to encourage them.
“Schools have been advised to put in place safe boarding procedures on school transport and to consider seating and grouping arrangements on buses to minimise social contacts.
“We’ve also worked with operators to put on extra buses and are monitoring demand, but we are reminding parents and pupils of the need to wear face coverings on buses, and also consider if there are any alternative ways they could travel to school to ease the strain on our transport network.
“Our highways and transport teams are closely monitoring the situation on the roads for any increased congestion around schools in order to respond as quickly as possible to any local issues. But if you are able to walk or cycle to school then this will help relieve congestion on the roads, with the added benefits of improving local air quality and your family’s health too.”
The current advice from the government is to only use public transport where necessary for work or education purposes and use other forms of transport if possible. It is estimated that around half of pupils live within 2 miles of their school and, where they can, families are being asked to arrange for pupils to walk or cycle.
The current Switch to Cycling campaign is looking to build on an increase in people cycling during lockdown with lots of helpful information and advice for anyone thinking of cycling.
Lancashire County Council’s Director of Public Health Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, added: “We have seen really worrying signs of the infection rate increasing in Lancashire and hospital admissions are starting to increase. If we don’t act now we could be facing another lockdown.
“We want to see all children aged 11 and above using face coverings on school transport unless they are exempt. This is the advice from the Department for Education, and it is now the law to wear them on public transport and in transport hubs, such as bus and railway stations.
“Good hygiene is also important and pupils are asked to bring their own hand sanitiser, and use it on boarding and after getting off the bus. Pupils who pay their bus fare in cash are asked to have the right coins to minimise the need to handle change.
“I’d like to remind Lancashire residents not to mix between households indoors and keep outdoor mixing as low as possible. Use public transport only for essential journeys like school, work and health appointments and try to stay and shop locally.
“If you could walk or cycle to school rather than use school or public buses, please do. We all need to do our bit to protect vulnerable members of our communities who could be badly affected by Covid.”