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German trains to crack down on facemask violations

August 3, 2020

In Germany it's the law to wear a mask on public transport. Deutsche Bahn, the government-owned train operator, has said it will work more closely with the police, while lawmakers have called for fines to be introduced.

Police with members of the public in a German train station
Image: picture-alliance/SvenSimon/F. Hoermann

German government-owned train operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) announced Monday they want the requirement to wear a face-mask on public transport to be better enforced. The announcement came after lawmakers criticized the travel operator for failing to adequately ensure that passengers wear masks.

"We are going to work together with the federal police to ensure the safety of passengers," DB said in a statement.

Read more: Coronavirus digest: Intensive care cases in Belgium double in a month

The requirement to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth on public transport was introduced by law in Germany in June because of the coronavirus pandemic. There has been disagreement since then about whether train staff or police are responsible for enforcing the law — and what consequences people who ignore the regulations could face.

DB stressed that the vast majority of passengers were abiding by the rules and pointed out that they widely shared the new rule on trains, in stations and online.

"If a minority disregards the rules, that is unacceptable to us," they said, saying that the health of their workers and other guests was their highest priority.

Read more: Dangers of COVID-19 aerosols are underestimated

Greens criticize current level of enforcement

On Monday morning the Green party of Germany announced a five-point plan for the enforcement of coronavirus restrictions on DB trains. Matthias Gastel, the party's spokesman for rail transport, criticized the "unclear division of responsibility."

DB acknowledged that enforcing the requirement to wear a mask is more difficult on long-distance trains and that workers who do try to enforce the law often face potential conflicts.

The Greens' plan includes fines for those who repeatedly ignored the rules, a reservation system that better allows for social distancing and fewer "super-saver" tickets to discourage people from booking long-distance trains last minute.

Germany was one of the first countries in Europe to introduce compulsory mask-wearing on public transport, a move that was later seen in France and the UK.

ed/stb (AFP, dpa)

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