Covid: Wearing face masks won’t be a legal requirement after July 19

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Face masks are currently required on public transport and inside public places (Picture: REX)

People will no longer be required to wear face masks after lockdown is lifted on July 19, the Environment Secretary has said.

George Eustice says he will ditch his own mask when the rule is scrapped as he wants to get ‘back to normal’ and accepts a lot of people are sick of wearing them.

So-called ‘Freedom Day’ was meant to be on June 21, but was pushed back to allow more people to get their second dose of vaccine and to curb rising cases of the highly infectious Delta variant.

But ministers are confident that the final lifting of lockdown rules won’t be delayed again, meaning the reopening of nightclubs and the end of social distancing.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Eustice said: ‘What we want to do on July 19, and the Prime Minister has said that the data looks good to be able to have that end, is to remove all of the legal restrictions, that is all of the legal requirements to do things to be taken away completely.

‘Whether there will still be some people who might choose to wear masks or whether they may be advisory in some settings that is a separate matter.

‘But the objective of that final stage is to remove the legal requirement to do these things.’

On people wearing face masks in indoor public places from July 19, he said: ‘As far as we are concerned, there won’t be a legal compulsion for you to.’

When asked if he would carry on wearing a mask anyway, he replied: ‘I wouldn’t, no. I have to be honest, once I’m told it’s safe not to, I want to get back to normal.

‘I think a lot of people will want to shed those masks. But while it’s contributing to controlling the pandemic, yes I will wear my mask like everybody else and do my bit.’

However Dr David Nabarro, a special envoy on Covid-19 for the World Health Organisation, thinks masks and social distancing may be needed for longer in areas with higher infection rates.

He said there is a need to ‘maintain defences against the virus to stop it welling up more and more, and that’s going to be the life to come, at least until there’s enough vaccine, and enough certainty, to be sure that vaccination will protect us. Right now we can’t say that’.

Commuters wear face masks as they pass through Vauxhall underground station.

Environment Secretary George Eustice accepts that ‘a lot of people will want to shed those masks’ (Picture: Getty Images)

Dr Nabarro added: ‘There will be a need for every single workplace to be asking, ‘is it right that we stop wearing masks and stop maintaining distance?’

‘Because that’s the way you prevent people from getting infected and that’s the key to stopping big spikes building up… I am advocating continued physical distancing, continued mask wearing for the time being, including in countries where there’s a lot of vaccination.’

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has suggested it could be a mistake to ditch mandatory face masks on the Tube.

A spokesman for him said: ‘It is important that we continue to follow the science around the extent to which they limit transmission on transport and in busy indoor spaces.

‘Evidence shows that the wearing of facemasks gives many Londoners the confidence that they can travel safely on public transport.’


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