People will no longer be told to wear face masks from later this month, a Cabinet minister says, with England on course to lift almost all Covid restrictions.
Robert Jenrick gave an upbeat message on the “very promising” data – ahead of the planned completion of the roadmap out of lockdown on 19 July.
The new phase would see “we as private citizens make these judgements rather than the government telling you what to do”, the local government secretary said.
And he confirmed mask-wearing would be voluntary, saying: “The state won’t be telling you what to do, but you will want to exercise a degree of personal responsibility and judgement.
“So different people will come to different conclusions on things like masks for example.”
On Saturday, the British Medical Association pleaded with the government not to scrap all face covering rules, with Covid cases rising sharply and a third wave underway.
But Mr Jenrick said the successful vaccination programme meant England could “move to a much more permissive regime” on 19 July, although no final decisions have been taken.
“We are now reaching a different phase in the virus. We are not going to put the Covid-19 virus behind us forever, we’re going to have to learn to live with it,” he told Sky News.
“The fact that we’ve got to the point where 83 per cent of adults in this country have had at least one jab, we should be able to think about how we can return to normality as much as possible.
“The data that we are seeing, and that the prime minister is reviewing at the moment ahead of his decision point on the roadmap, looks very positive.
“It does seem as if we can now move forward and move to a much more permissive regime where we move away from any of those restrictions that have been so difficult for us, and learn to live with the virus.”
Sajid Javid, the new health secretary, also hinted that so-called ‘Freedom Day’ will go ahead in full in 19 July – describing the health arguments for doing so as “compelling”.
“We are going to have to learn to live with Covid and find ways to cope with it, just as we already do with flu,” Mr Javid wrote in a newspaper article.
But Labour’s Rachel Reeves attacked off-the-record briefings that the data is heading in the right direction, telling ministers to “present the evidence” from scientists.
“It is important, if QR codes are going to stop, if the masks are going to come off, that we are absolutely confident that is the right thing to do,” the shadow Chancellor said.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce decisions on social distancing rules and Covid-certification certificates to enter large events in the coming days, ahead of giving the step 4 go-ahead on 12 July.
Source: The Independent