Orders to wear face masks set to be ditched, Cabinet minister says

Environment Secretary George Eustice said he was looking forward to ditching his mask as soon as there was not a “legal compulsion” to wear one.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 2:53 pm

All legal coronavirus restrictions, including requirements to wear face masks, are set to be ditched on July 19, a Cabinet minister said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes the “data looks good” in order to allow the removal of the remaining restrictions, Mr Eustice said.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also told The Times CEO Summit it was his “strong expectation” that restrictions will be scrapped next month.

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Orders to wear face masks could soon be ditched
Orders to wear face masks could soon be ditched

Despite the optimism shown by the senior ministers, Downing Street said “no final decision” had been taken on what measures would be scrapped on next month’s so-called “terminus date” for Mr Johnson’s road map out of lockdown.

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Experts have warned that some measures, such as the use of face masks, could be required in order to manage levels of coronavirus in the community.

But Mr Eustice told Sky News: “What we want to do on the 19th of July, and the Prime Minister said that the data looks good to be able to have that end, is to remove all of the legal restrictions.

“That’s all of the legal requirements to do things to be taken away completely.

“Now, whether there will still be some people who might choose to wear masks or whether it may be advisory in some settings, that’s a separate matter.

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

Asked if he would still wear a mask once restrictions end, Mr Eustice said: “I wouldn’t, no.

“I have to be honest, once I’m told that it’s safe not to, I want to get back to normal. I think a lot of people will want to shed those masks.”

He said “the plan is” that on July 19 “the legal requirement to have a face mask is taken away”.

Mr Eustice told ITV’s Good Morning Britain there was a “separate question” about whether “there may be some guidance that on certain settings like the (London) Underground it might make sense to still wear it”.

“That’s obviously a judgment we will take at the time, but the objective in this final stage is to remove the legal requirement to have one.”

No 10 said, while it was “entirely right to say we do want to remove as many restrictions as are safe to do so”, it was still studying the data before making a decision on what freedoms could be restored on July 19.

Asked about Mr Eustice’s remarks, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “It is right that obviously we want to get back to as close to normal as is possible post-Step 4.

“However, no final decisions have been taken about what measures are required.”

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson hoped to “bin” his own face masks at the end of the road map, his spokesman said: “That would depend.

“The Prime Minister, should there be any requirement for it in future, would be happy to comply with them.

“But, as I say, no decisions have been taken on what will or will not be required in future.”

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