Cross-Solent ferry operators have announced that passengers will still need to wear face coverings when travelling, despite legal restrictions being lifted on Monday.
From Monday, the Government has said that those living in England will no longer need to wear face coverings, with social distancing and other restrictions finally lifted.
However, Hovertravel and Wightlink have said that they will be enforcing the use of masks until further notice. Red Funnel are also understood to be following this stance.
Passengers are also being encouraged to respect social distancing, even though social distancing ceases to exist from Monday.
Wightlink’s Fleet and Operations Director John Burrows says:
“Although increasing numbers of people are now fully vaccinated, the pandemic is still not over. We all need to take sensible precautions to stop the spread of coronavirus, despite the easing of regulations and that means everyone still needs to wear a face covering indoors, unless they are exempt. We will keep this policy under review.
“Fresh air is all important as it helps stop the spread of coronavirus. Wightlink’s passenger lounges are spacious and well-ventilated and customers can enjoy plenty of sea breezes on the outside decks.
“All customers, including foot passengers, should book in advance to be sure of travelling on the sailing of their choice, as we expect the summer to be busy.”
Hovertravel’s Managing Director, Neil Chapman, has said that capacity will be increased but face coverings will remain for those crossing between Ryde-Southsea.
In an open letter issued today, Neil has said:
“Whilst we recognise the law has changed, we, along with the other ferry operators and the Isle of Wight Council, will continue to ask for face coverings to be worn during your journey. We believe that this measure is an important step in safeguarding our passengers and our people.
“We have several new tickets which are designed to suit the changing nature of commuting and regular travel, plus our online Manage My Booking account facility allows customers to manage their own changes, even at the last minute. We are also extending our Hover Flexibility until 31st October 2021, giving customers the opportunity to re-book their travel to a later date, without penalty.
“Throughout the pandemic our customer community has been very supportive and all of us at Hovertravel are grateful. Now, as together we learn to live with the virus, we appreciate that some of you may have questions or need a little extra help, so please ask any member of staff for assistance at any time during your journey.
“We have to be personally responsible and consider the risks to both ourselves and others. As people start to travel more, and some may have not travelled for over a year, customers will make different choices. Please respect that and give your fellow passengers the space and time to travel in their own way, at their own pace.”
UPDATE @ 16:05 – Red Funnel has confirmed it will also require passengers to continuing wearing face masks, but will be returning to normal capacity levels.
Passengers and team members should continue to wear a face covering whilst onboard Red Funnel ferries, when inside terminal spaces and whilst embarking or disembarking, unless exempt, under 11 years of age, on outside decks, or when eating/drinking.
Fran Collins, Chief Executive at Red Funnel said:
“Government guidance is clear and recommends people continue to wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces, such as public transport. The safety of passengers and our team members is our number one priority, and we continue to follow the latest government guidance.
“We trust our teams and passengers to make the right decision at the right time and expect that the vast majority will continue to wear a face covering when travelling with us.”
From Monday, Red Funnel will be returning to normal capacity on its car ferries as social distancing requirements are dropped.
The ‘stay in vehicle’ service will remain in place for passengers who are medically vulnerable or who need to self-isolate during their crossing. More information on booking this service can be found here: https://www.redfunnel.co.uk/en/isle-of-wight-ferry/faqs/covid/stay-in-vehicle/.
Perspex screens will remain in place across the business, as will contactless payments. Cash payment will be accepted ‘soon’.