Not wearing a mask in public during the coronavirus pandemic should be deemed as anti-social as driving without a seatbelt, the president of the Royal Society has said.

Venki Ramakrishnan called for face coverings to be worn in all indoor public spaces where socially distancing is difficult, and not just on transport, as has been mandatory for more than three weeks.

However, many commuters were once again seen flouting the rules on the London Underground this morning, amid findings that the UK is well behind others countries in terms of wearing masks.

Many commuters were once again seen flouting the rules on the London Underground this morning

Many commuters were once again seen flouting the rules on the London Underground this morning

Many commuters were once again seen flouting the rules on the London Underground this morning

Venki Ramakrishnan, pictured, called for face coverings to be worn in all indoor public spaces where socially distancing is difficult, and not just on transport, as has been mandatory for more than three weeks

Venki Ramakrishnan, pictured, called for face coverings to be worn in all indoor public spaces where socially distancing is difficult, and not just on transport, as has been mandatory for more than three weeks

Venki Ramakrishnan, pictured, called for face coverings to be worn in all indoor public spaces where socially distancing is difficult, and not just on transport, as has been mandatory for more than three weeks

Further research from the UK’s national academy of sciences showed that just one in four were uptaking the practice compared to 83.4% in Italy, 65.8% in the United States and 63.8% in Spain.

The report, by the Royal Society’s SET-C (Science in Emergencies Tasking – COVID-19) group, claimed such nations ‘do not have an established culture of face mask wearing, but did have clearly mandated policies’.

Mr Ramakrishnan added that a lack of clarity from the government had likely been a reason as to why the public have not taken to face coverings, suggesting people do not really understand the benefits or are not convinced of them.

‘It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts,’ he said. 

‘Today both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way. If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. 

‘We lower the chances of future surges and lockdowns which are economically and psychologically disruptive, and we increase the chance of eliminating the virus. Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother.

‘Wearing a mask did not bother our Italian, French or Spanish neighbours, none of whom were used to wearing one before the pandemic yet now do so routinely. 

Many passengers were wearing face coverings on the Circle Line this morning, pictured, but there have been cases of people flouting the rules

Many passengers were wearing face coverings on the Circle Line this morning, pictured, but there have been cases of people flouting the rules

Many passengers were wearing face coverings on the Circle Line this morning, pictured, but there have been cases of people flouting the rules

Police have insisted they have fined Tube passengers for travelling without face masks, despite Transport for London saying last month that rule-breakers were being given time to 'understand' the new rules.

Police have insisted they have fined Tube passengers for travelling without face masks, despite Transport for London saying last month that rule-breakers were being given time to 'understand' the new rules.

Police have insisted they have fined Tube passengers for travelling without face masks, despite Transport for London saying last month that rule-breakers were being given time to ‘understand’ the new rules.

Mr Ramakrishnan said: 'The UK is way behind many countries in terms of wearing masks and clear policies and guidelines about mask wearing for the public'

Mr Ramakrishnan said: 'The UK is way behind many countries in terms of wearing masks and clear policies and guidelines about mask wearing for the public'

Mr Ramakrishnan said: ‘The UK is way behind many countries in terms of wearing masks and clear policies and guidelines about mask wearing for the public’

How the government’s line on face coverings has changed over the months 

March 12: Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries: ‘For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea… in fact, you can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in.’

April 16: Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘The evidence is weak, but the evidence of a small effect is there under certain circumstances.’

April 23: Dr Jenny Harries said there could be ‘a very, very small potential beneficial effect in some enclosed environments’.

April 24: Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘On masks, as more information comes through, the science is constantly evolving and we always bear in mind that science and then take the decision. As of today, the government position is unchanged.’

April 30: Boris Johnson said: ‘I do think that face coverings will be useful, both for epidemiological reasons, but also for giving people confidence that they can go back to work.’

June 4: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that face coverings will be mandatory on public transport from June 15 

‘With more people using transport the evidence suggests wearing face coverings offers some – albeit limited – protection against the spread for the virus.’

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‘So just treat it as another item of clothing that is part of the new normal and wear it whenever you cannot socially distance safely. It the right thing to do, and a small price to pay, to help keep infections down and the economy open in the pandemic.’

Updated guidance from the Department for Transport on travelling, released on Saturday, still advises maintaining a two-metre distance where possible, but suggests a one-metre distance, as well as ‘suitable precautions’, where not.  

It clearly states that it is the law to wear a face covering and that police and transport staff have the power to fine people £100 for not wearing one, or they can throw them off the service. 

The regulations apply to all passengers on trains, buses, Tubes, coaches, trams, planes or ferries. 

However, children under the age of 11 and those with certain health conditions or disabilities are exempt. 

Mr Ramakrishnan said: ‘The virus has not been eliminated, so as we lift lockdown and people increasingly interact with each other we need to use every tool we have to reduce the risk of a second wave of infection.

‘There are no silver bullets but alongside hand washing and physical distancing, we also need everyone to start wearing face coverings, particularly indoors in enclosed public spaces where physical distancing is often not possible.

‘The UK is way behind many countries in terms of wearing masks and clear policies and guidelines about mask wearing for the public. The public have taken to handwashing and distancing but remain sceptical about face coverings. 

‘You only need to go on public transport, where they are supposed to be mandatory, to see how many people are ignoring this new rule based on the growing body of evidence that wearing a mask will help protect others – and might even protect you.’

Police have insisted they have fined Tube passengers for travelling without face masks, despite Transport for London saying last month that rule-breakers were being given time to ‘understand’ the new rules.

Last night officials released a Blue Peter-style guide on how to make one from an old T-shirt

Last night officials released a Blue Peter-style guide on how to make one from an old T-shirt

Last night officials released a Blue Peter-style guide on how to make one from an old T-shirt

British Transport Police told MailOnline penalties were issued where necessary, though stressed this was only ever a ‘last resort’ and that officers were focusing on engaging with passengers and encouraging them to wear masks.

BTP did not disclose how many fines have been issued or when the first enforcement action was taken. 

As lockdown has eased, and many people return to work following the re-opening of non-essential shops as well as pubs, restaurants and other strands of the hospitality sector, public transport usage has been on the up.

DfT data shows that while public transport is still being used far less frequently than this time last year, there has been a week-by-week rise.

In the most recent set, up to last week, National Rail services were shows as being used at 11 per cent of the level they were in 2019, though this was higher than at the beginning of May when it was at five per cent, and even as low as four per cent during the peak of the pandemic in April.

Similarly on the Underground, usage was at 16 per cent compared to last year at the start of this week, up from 10 per cent at the start of the month and as low as four at the height of the crisis.

With many employers opening up again on ‘Super Saturday’, this week’s figures are expected to be significantly higher.

Thousands of face masks have been handed out to Tube and train passengers across England after it became compulsory to wear them on all forms of public transport to reduce coronavirus infection rates.  

Announcing the rules last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the ‘challenges’ for the network were ‘increasing’ as more people go back to work and schools and shops reopen. 

‘We are doing what many other countries have asked transport users to do,’ he said. ‘The evidence is that wearing face coverings offers some, albeit limited protection.’ 

Mr Shapps said while the rules would be mandatory and ‘ultimately’ people could be fined, he did not believe they would need much enforcement. 

‘Wearing a face covering helps protect others,’ he said. ‘Why wouldn’t people want to do the right thing? We are all desperate to get rid of coronavirus.’

He stressed that people should still only use public transport if they have to, urging them to drive, walk or cycle instead where possible.

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