Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi tries to quell backlash from mayors on ditching mask laws saying people will still be ‘expected’ to wear them in confined spaces – as poll shows 50 per cent of Britons want ‘Freedom Day’ delayed
- The Government is axing law mandating masks from ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19
- But Nadhim Zahawi said people still ‘expected’ to wear masks in confined spaces
- Mayors have condemned the move amid threats to keep coverings in London
Nadhim Zahawi today tried to quell a backlash from local leaders on plans to drop mandatory masks on public transport, as a poll found 50 per cent of Britons want ‘Freedom Day’ delayed.
The vaccines minister insisted people will still be ‘expected’ to wear coverings in confined spaces under new guidance being issued this week, even though the legal compulsion will go.
But he insisted that the unlocking schedule was set to go ahead as planned. ‘We’re seeing a rise in infection rates in this country, but also in Europe and elsewhere. The difference for us is that the vaccination programme has been so successful,’ he said.
The comments came after Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham warned July 19 could turn into ‘anxiety day’, complaining that face coverings should remain a legal requirement.
Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan is still considering a bid to force passengers to keep wearing masks on trains, Tube and buses in London.
The level of nerves among the wider public was demonstrated today as research by Opinium found half would prefer the unlocking slated to happen a week tomorrow to be delayed.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi insisted people will still be ‘expected’ to wear coverings in confined spaces under new guidance being issued this week
Research by Opinium found half would prefer the unlocking slated to happen a week tomorrow to be delayed
Boris Johnson is due to confirm the government is dropping its law making masks mandatory from July 19
Some 31 per cent thought the timing was about right, while just 10 per cent said it should have been earlier.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid struck a harder line on masks in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph today, saying people would be irresponsible not to wear one in a crowded space.
‘If someone is not doing that, frankly, they’re just being irresponsible, they’re not playing their role as a responsible citizen,’ he said.
Asked on Sky News about the easings from July 19, Mr Zahawi said: ‘I think it is important that we remain cautious and careful and the guidelines that we will set out tomorrow will demonstrate that – including guidelines that people are expected to wear masks in indoor, enclosed spaces.’
Mr Zahawi also suggested the government is looking at a test and release scheme to replace self-isolation for those who come into contact with a positive case, amid fears that millions of healthy people will be doomed to house arrest as infections rise.
The PM is expected to give final approval for Stage 4 of the roadmap tomorrow, with almost all legal restrictions set to be lifted.
But Nicola Sturgeon has already vowed to keep masks and other curbs in Scotland for longer.
Mr Burnham told the Observer: ‘The government is simply wrong to frame everything from here as a matter of pure personal choice. It is not.
‘Many people who are vulnerable to the virus have to use public transport and do their food shopping in person.
‘That is why the wearing of face coverings in these settings should have remained mandatory.
‘I will be strongly encouraging the people of Greater Manchester to continue to wear masks on public transport out of respect for others.’
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: ‘Given Sajid Javid now considers it irresponsible to not wear masks then it would be equally irresponsible for his government to carry on with the plan to lift mask requirements while infections are heading to 100,000 a day.
‘Reopening the economy must be done in a safe and sustainable way.
‘That means continued mask wearing, support for increased ventilation standards in premises, decent sick pay, allowing people to continue working from home and ensuring all can access testing rather than introducing charges for lateral flow tests as Sajid Javid now proposes.’
Labour frontbencher Kate Green told Sky News this morning that she ‘hopes’ Mr Burnham and Mr Khan will keep mandatory masks on the transport systems in their areas.
Sadiq Khan is still considering a bid to force passengers to keep wearing masks on trains, Tube and buses in London
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham warned July 19 could turn into ‘anxiety day’, complaining that face coverings should remain a legal requirement