Masks given freely, for safety

Anne Marie Parsons, of Kaikorai Valley, shows face masks she gives out for free to bus users....
Anne Marie Parsons, of Kaikorai Valley, shows face masks she gives out for free to bus users. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
A story in The Star last week about bus users defying the mask-wearing rule prompted a reader  to come forward with her observations. Reporter Simon Henderson talks to a local bus user who has her own way of helping people stay safe.

Some people say "stop preaching, old bat", but that does not stop Anne Marie Parsons offering free facemasks to people waiting for the bus near her home.

She buys packets of masks from her local market and when she spots someone waiting at the bus stop without one, she offers them a mask.

"I’m almost 80, so I am old enough to take rejection."

Face coverings at Covid-19 Alert Level 1 are still legally required on public transport, with some exceptions.

Ms Parsons said some people did not have nice things to say, including "stop preaching, old bat", but others had thanked her and accepted a free facemask appreciatively.

"Sometimes people are very grateful, sometimes people are just so rude and arrogant. It is awful."

As a Christian, she remained committed to providing masks despite some challenges.

"Because I wear a cross, sometimes that comes into the story," Ms Parsons said.

"I wear my cross for me, to remind me how to behave."

Otago Regional Council transport manager Garry Maloney said masks were not provided on buses and it was up to individual passengers to do the right thing and follow Alert Level 1 guidelines.

Bus drivers were not required to enforce the use of face coverings.

"They cannot stop people from boarding buses without a face covering, but may encourage using one."

Bus drivers themselves might not be wearing a mask, if they had exemptions for a range of reasons, including if wearing one could impair driving.

The regional council understood from national conversations that getting passengers to use face coverings was a challenge throughout the country.

"It sounds like mask usage in Dunedin is relatively good - albeit with room for improvement," Mr Maloney said.

The Government’s guidelines applied equally to all public transport users, and the regional council strongly encouraged passengers of all ages to wear a face covering on the bus.

"We have recently refreshed our on-board signage reminding people to continue to wear face coverings."

The council was looking at introducing alerts and reminders about mask use through Transit, the travel app that showed real-time Orbus tracking information.

"We would also remind people to scan on to the bus using the NZ Covid Tracer app, and to avoid using public transport if you are feeling unwell.

"The situation in parts of Australia is a good reminder of the importance of these measures, particularly given the higher transmission rates of new Covid-19 variants," Mr Maloney said.



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