Both Professor Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty have said they will continue to wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces, after the government announced that face coverings will no longer be compulsory from 19 July.
“We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus,” prime minister Boris Johnson said in a Downing Street press conference on Monday.
The change in guidance – set to come into force from 19 Monday, pending a final decision next Monday – will mean people can throw away masks after 18 months of enforced face-covering, though businesses and transit operators may still require them.
Prof Vallance, England’s chief scientific adviser, and Prof Whitty, the chief medical officer, both outlined their intention to keep wearing face masks where appropriate.
Prof Whitty highlighted three scenarios where he would continue to wear a mask: in “any situation which is indoors and crowded”; when “required to by any competent authority”; out of “common courtesy” if “someone else was uncomfortable if I didn’t wear a mask”.
The PM similarly committed to wearing a face covering in crowded places full of strangers, but suggested he would not do so on an empty train carriage late at night.
“I will obviously wear a mask in crowded places where you are meeting people that you don’t know, as Chris (Whitty) was saying, to protect others and as a matter of simple courtesy,” he told the press conference.
“There’s a difference between that, and I think everyone can understand that, and circumstances where you might find yourselves sitting alone for hours late at night on a train with no one else in the compartment and there I think people should be entitled to exercise some discretion.”
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