Police will take an educate-first approach to the new mandate for masks on public transport in Auckland and enforcement of the rules will be a last resort, Marc Daalder reports

From Thursday, masks will be required on public transport in Auckland and on all flights in New Zealand.

The new rules were announced by Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins in a post-Cabinet press conference on Monday. They bear resemblance to the mask rules introduced while the country was in Level 2 during the Auckland August outbreak.

Drivers and passengers on buses and trains in Auckland will have to wear some type of face covering. Children under 12 are exempt. Drivers of taxis and Ubers will have to wear masks but passengers won’t. Everyone on all domestic flights will also need to wear masks.

The rules don’t apply to school buses, tour buses and other contract services and individuals can also be exempted for medical reasons.

Enforcement of the new measures would be handled with a light-touch, Hipkins said. Bus drivers and other public transport operators were not being asked to enforce the rules for passengers. Police would take an educate-first approach and any true enforcement of the rules would be a “last resort”.

Ardern said the requirement was limited to Auckland for the time being because of the city’s population density and because it has an international airport and more managed isolation and quarantine facilities than any other part of the country. However, Hipkins added that the Government would investigate expanding the rules to other cities and regions.

“The Government is seeking further advice from officials about extending face covering requirements for other centres and introducing mandatory scanning of QR codes in some high risk situations where contact tracing is challenging,” he said.

The rushed move to put the mandate in place was a reaction to the community cases announced last week and focused on limiting any further community spread.

Newsroom reported last week that Hipkins was awaiting legal and logistical advice on the broader mandates, but understood people would not generally voluntarily scan or wear masks if there was no requirement.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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