WINNIPEG -- The City of Winnipeg announced on Friday it is bringing back the 120 transit operators and 41 operators-in-training who were laid off amid the pandemic.

This announcement comes after a steady increase in ridership over the past few weeks, according to the city.

Starting on Aug. 2, transit will be returning to its regular summer schedule. Full weekday service will then resume on Aug. 4.

“We saw passenger levels drop to their lowest point during the month of April, when we saw an average of 70 per cent reduction in ridership over the same time frame last year,” said Jay Shaw, the city’s assistant chief of emergency management.

Shaw said transit levels stayed around that mark throughout May and June, with an approximate 66 to 68 per cent reduction in ridership.

“However, we have seen a steady increase in ridership through early parts of July with an approximate 52 to 56 per cent (reduction in ridership) over the last two weeks,” he said.

“With those numbers continuing on an upward trend, the decision was made to restore summer transit service beginning in August.”

The city recommends that Winnipeg Transit passengers wear non-medical face masks while riding the bus. It notes that transit drivers and inspectors won’t be enforcing the use of masks and asks people not to judge those who aren’t wearing one.

“Dr. (Brent )Roussin and the province of Manitoba have been pretty clear right now that if you can’t maintain social and physical distancing, then a non-medical face mask is definitely an option,” Shaw said.

Shaw noted the masks are recommended, not mandatory.

“We want to be able to maintain that safe service. Transit has been a safe service the whole time and we want to maintain that as we move into this new normal as we go forward,” he said.

Winnipeggers are also asked to maintain a reasonable distance from other passengers on the bus, use the back door when getting off the bus if they’re able, and avoid using transit if they have any flu-like symptoms.

At a news conference on Friday, Mayor Brian Bowman thanked the city’s transit operators.

“They do incredibly important work to keep our city moving and especially in these unprecedented times, I want to thank them, I want to thank their loved ones and their families for all that they’re doing to keep this city moving,” he said.