Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced a new national lockdown for England, re-instating the ‘stay at home’ instruction with limited exceptions.
Although the move is likely to further reduce use of public transport, the Government has so far not offered new financial support for providers.
A spokesperson for the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) pointed out that the COVID-19 Bus Services Support Grant remains in place and said the level of financial support needed will depend on service levels and passenger demand.
The spokeperson said: 'Operators will be engaging with local authorities and government to determine any changes to services levels based on local circumstances. Services will be focused on routes where there is likely to be passenger demand during the lockdown period but will be flexible as passenger demand becomes clearer.
'Where changes are made these will be clearly communicated to passengers in advance. For those passengers needing to make essential journeys bus services remain safe with enhanced cleaning taking place, capacity reduced and passengers required to wear face coverings unless exempt.'
On Tuesday morning chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £4.6bn of funding for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses forced to close, as well as a £594m discretionary fund to support ‘other impacted businesses’.
The new lockdown followed advice on Monday afternoon from the four UK Chief Medical Officers that the COVID threat level should be raised to indicate 'that if action is not taken NHS capacity may be overwhelmed within 21 days’.
The devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland had previously announced new lockdowns.
Number 10 said that from Tuesday, people in England will only be allowed to leave their homes for the following reasons:
- shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
- go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
- exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area
- meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
- seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse).
- attend education or childcare - for those eligible
- attend education or childcare - for those eligible.
The Government said: ‘If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live.’
In addition, all primary schools, secondary schools and colleges in England have moved to remote learning, except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, and the Government is also advising clinically extremely vulnerable people to begin shielding again, further reducing demand for public transport.
However, some Twitter users observed that parts of cities remained busy, despite the ‘stay at home’ message.
The Financial Times reported that ministers are finalising proposals to tighten up entry into England from abroad with plans to introduce pre-flight PCR COVID tests for anyone entering the country.
In a media interview on Tuesday morning, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the Government would be ‘making announcements later today and in the days ahead about how we will make sure that our ports and airports are safe’.
He added: ‘It is already the case that there are significant restrictions on people coming into this country and of course we’re stressing that nobody should be travelling abroad.’
On Monday, the RMT union issued fresh guidance to members across all sectors ‘reminding them of their right to a safe working environment as the new strain of COVID 19 ramps up the risks to staff and passengers alike’.
General secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Our members across all sectors are raising renewed concerns over safety in the workplace as the new strain of COVID rips through our communities.’