Wearing Covid face masks in England will soon be voluntary, Jenrick confirms | Vaccines and immunisation

Wearing Covid face masks in England will soon be voluntary, Jenrick confirms | Vaccines and immunisation


A “much more permissive regime” of coronavirus measures will soon come into force across England with masks due to be made optional, a cabinet minister has revealed.

Ahead of an announcement by Boris Johnson expected this week on easing the final set of curbs on 19 July, the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said legal restrictions would be dropped to let people “exercise a degree of personal responsibility and judgment”.

“Different people will come to different conclusions on things like masks,” he said, confirming he would be shedding his face covering at the earliest opportunity.

Meanwhile, the new health secretary, Sajid Javid, insisted a steep rise in Covid cases would not derail the planned reopening later this month.

Though infections have already risen to levels not seen since January 2021 and are expected to increase further when nightclubs are opened and other rules removed, he said Covid could not be eliminated and the government had to “find ways to cope with it”, as with flu.

Javid, writing in the Mail on Sunday, appeared to acknowledge there was still uncertainty about the future impact of Covid, admitting “dangerous new variants” may emerge that “evade the vaccine”.

He urged people to get both jabs, calling it the “single biggest contribution you can make to this national effort”.

On Saturday, 24,885 new infections were reported across the UK – up significantly from the 18,132 reported on the same day last week. Covid-related deaths have not spiked in the same way they did during the first, second and third peaks, with the latest daily number of fatalities standing at 18.

Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England, said the link between catching the virus and serious illness had been severely weakened but not totally broken, with hospitalisations on the rise again.

He appeared hesitant to endorse the move towards ditching all mandatory social restrictions, including masks, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: “Some people will choose to be more cautious … and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those habits to reduce infection are a good thing.”

Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, also said he would carry on wearing a mask indefinitely when experiencing any Covid symptoms or in an enclosed, crowded space.

“I think, as paediatricians, we learned we can avoid massive problems with children getting sick in the winter by doing these kind of measures,” he told Sky. “We simply didn’t see the epidemic of respiratory viruses last winter that we’ve seen every year throughout my career.

“I think mask-wearing is something we’ve learned is extremely valuable to do under certain circumstances. That doesn’t mean I’ll wear a mask all the time, but it does mean I will some of the time.”

Jenrick, meanwhile, said he did not want to wear a face covering and he did not think many other people liked it either.

He told Sky News’s Trevor Philips on Sunday: “These will be matters of personal choice. Some members of society will want to do so for publicly legitimate reasons. But it will be a different period where we as private citizens makes these judgments, rather than the government telling you what to do.”

Monday marks the halfway point of the four-week delay Johnson ordered to the final stage of his roadmap, pushed back from 21 June.

The prime minister said it was unlikely he would give the go-ahead for all restrictions to end on 5 July, but he is still expected to make an announcement confirming 19 July is still on track.



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