politics

Alarm at plan to axe face masks – as most want them to stay on public transport


Boris Johnson’s vow to axe face masks in public as Covid cases soar sparked alarm tonight.

The PM confirmed curbs will end on July 19, despite admitting infections could rise to 50,000 a day by then.

Jo Goodman, whose dad died of Covid, said: “It’s hard to see what the logic is behind this.”

A poll found most Brits want masks to stay on public transport.

While many people worn down by 15 months of restrictions will be relieved at Boris Johnson ’s axing of masks and other rules, there are fears it could lead to a Covid spike.

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And a poll found most Brits want face coverings to stay on public transport and in shops after the PM declared all curbs are to be relaxed from July 19.

Mr Johnson confirmed wearing masks and social-distancing rules will be scrapped on Freedom Day – despite Covid cases continuing to soar.

He even admitted there could be 50,000 infections a day after curbs end, yet will still press ahead – with a warning for people not to get “demob happy”.

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group said wearing masks is an “evidence-based, low-cost intervention proven to save lives”.

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Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said he ‘would wear a mask under three situations’
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Image:

POOL/AFP via Getty Images)



Co-founder Jo Goodman, whose dad Stuart died of Covid, added: “It’s hard to see what the logic is behind today’s announcement.”

Royal College of Nursing interim director of nursing, policy and public affairs Jude Diggins added: “Mask-wearing is straightforward and well-established. The Government will regret the day it sent the wrong signal for political expediency.”

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust chief nursing officer Sam Foster said: “I am sure we will continue to wear face masks, protecting the public so that they feel, and our staff feel , safe.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer added: “Lifting all protections in one go when the infection rate is going up is reckless. A balanced approach, a proper plan, would say keep key protections.

“One of them being masks in enclosed places and on public transport.”








Face masks on the Underground at Paddington on Monday
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Image:

Ben Cawthra/LNP)



Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who chairs the All-Party ­Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, added: “The Government’s rush to drop the measures risks exposing many more people to the ­devastating impact of Long Covid, including younger groups who aren’t fully vaccinated.”

A YouGov poll published minutes before Mr Johnson’s announced axing the curbs, showed 71% of those quizzed wanted masks to remain compulsory on public transport and 66% in shops and other enclosed spaces “for a further period of time” after July 19.

It comes as another 27,334 infections were recorded today, with the seven-day average up 53.2%.

The PM said: “I don’t want people to feel this is the moment to get demob happy, this is the end of Covid. It is very far from the end.”





New SAGE documents said the only way to control case rates was if “Covid protective behaviours” continue.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “I would wear a mask under three situations, and I would do so, particularly at this point when the epidemic is clearly significant and rising.

“The first is in any situation indoors and crowded, or indoors with close proximity to others and that is because masks help protect other people.

“This is a thing we do to protect other people, this is by far its principal aim.

“The second is if I was required to by any competent authority. I would have no hesitation about doing that. And the third reason is if someone else was ­uncomfortable if I did not wear a mask.”




Businesses and transport companies can still make wearing masks a “condition of carriage”. Rail and transport firms are to hold talks with ­ministers on “how to ensure passengers have the confidence” to use trains, trams and buses.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The wearing of face ­coverings on public transport helps to reduce the spread of Covid. And it crucially gives Londoners confidence to travel on the network, which is vital to our economic recovery.”

There were fears for vulnerable and disabled people who could feel unsafe boarding peak-time services if most other commuters do not wear masks.

Millions of Brits have not yet had a second jab and thousands of vulnerable people are medically unable to get ­vaccinated. The formal green light for triggering Step Four of the ­Government’s unlocking “roadmap” will be given next Monday and take effect a week later in the biggest easing of restrictions since ­measures were imposed 16 months ago.








Masks being worn in centre of Liverpool today
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Image:

Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)



Limits on numbers of people who can gather indoors or outside will be axed and punters can buy drinks at bars rather than a table service.

Nightclubs can reopen and there will be no caps on capacities at sports grounds, theatres or concerts.

The Government ruled out Covid passports for entry to venues, though businesses can choose to demand proof of a negative test or that customers have been ­vaccinated before letting them in.

Free lateral flow tests for ­symptomless people will continue until at least September 30.




Those who test positive for Covid or are “pinged” by the NHS app must continue to self-isolate, even after July 19.

People who have had two vaccines will eventually be exempt from ­quarantine even if they are identified by the app. But no date was given for when the ­exemption will come into force.

Work from home instructions will also be scrapped.

But ministers stopped short of urging staff to return to offices and said that was a decision for bosses.



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Face masks will be optional, though advised, in care homes and hospitals.

The delay between first and second vaccinations for the under-40s will be cut from 12 weeks to eight, so every adult will have been offered their second dose by mid-September.

Figures tonight showed 86.1% of adults have had a first dose and 64% two.

Plans continue to be thrashed out with travel chiefs about how inoculated passengers returning from amber list nations can avoid self-isolation.









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