Face masks will be 'personal choice' after July 19, minister confirms as social distancing and isolation also set to end

FACE masks will be a "personal choice" after July 19, a minister has confirmed – with social distancing and isolation also set to end.

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said the data was "looking good" for Covid rules to be rolled back after 'Freedom Day'.

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He told told Sky News' Trevor Phillips On Sunday: "Like many people, I want to get away from these restrictions as quickly as I possibly can and we don't want them to stay in place for a day longer than is necessary.

"I think we are going to now move into a period where there won't be legal restrictions, the state won't be telling you what to do, but you will want to exercise a degree of personal responsibility and judgment – different people will come to different conclusions on things like masks, for example.

"The Prime Minister will set out more detail on the national policy on some of those restrictions in the coming days.

"But there will be things we all definitely need to do – it will be essential that every adult gets fully vaccinated."

Pressed on whether he would "get rid" of his mask after July 19 if permitted to do so, Mr Jenrick said: "I will. I don't particularly want to wear a mask. I don't think a lot of people enjoy doing it."

The Housing Secretary said the impact of the vaccine meant that the Government could "move to a much more permissive regime", with England moving "away from any of those restrictions" from July 19.

He told Sky News: "I think 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.

"But thanks to the enormous success of our vaccine programme, 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 road map, 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."

Mr Jenrick said every adult getting "double vaxxed" was the "key to keeping the virus under control" into the autumn and winter.

According to The Sunday Times, mask wearing will become voluntary and the one metre-plus rule in hospitality venues will end, meaning a return to drinking at the bar without the requirement for table service.

Mass events, including festivals, will also be allowed under the proposals for the final stage of the road map out of lockdown, the paper reported.


Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling which provides modelling evidence to Sage, said July 19 is "probably the right time" to consider ending the wearing of face masks.

He told BBC Breakfast: "It's an interesting one. If we are going to do that I think probably this is the right time to consider that.

"We know that of course masks have helped throughout the pandemic in terms of reducing the risk a little bit, but they're part of a number of measures that do help to reduce the risk."

He said he has been worried about some commentators suggesting masks might be around for a long time, as he pointed out they can be difficult for people who are hard of hearing and those who struggle with their mental health.

"I think probably if we are going to remove them, 19th of July when we are seeing really low numbers of hospital admissions and low number of deaths, is probably the right time to consider it," he said.

He said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the changes on July 19 will be irreversible.

Dr Tildesley said: "The data is certainly looking pretty healthy right now but there's always a little bit of uncertainty.

"The epidemiologist in me will always kind of think well whilst we're in the summer we know that transmission is always a little bit low in the summer, people tend to socialise in outdoor settings a little bit more which also helps.

"As we move into the winter there is always a greater risk and there's always the potential for new variants to come along that evade the vaccine.

"So I think we do need to start thinking about that now, preparing for the winter and hopefully with a good booster vaccination campaign… hopefully we'll be well prepared moving forward and we won't need any sort of restrictions to be put in place as we move into the autumn and winter."

He added that as we move into the autumn he hoped Brits would have more of a "flu relationship with Covid".

He was asked about personal responsibility and the lack of social distancing among football fans, saying: "I think it's understandable that people are obviously very excited yesterday but of course there has to be some level of responsibility going forward.


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