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Javid says he will carry face mask ‘for the foreseeable ‘ as Labour calls for rules to remain

Written by on 06/07/2021

Sajid Javid has said he will continue to carry a face mask “for the foreseeable future” as the government faces increasing backlash over plans to ditch mandatory wearing on public transport.

The newly appointed health secretary said he would continue to wear a face covering in a crowded space or if he was with someone who felt uncomfortable about one not being worn, once restrictions are eased.

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But Labour’s health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on ministers to “be cautious” and consider keeping mask wearing in place until infections start coming down.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Javid said continuing to have a face mask on your person beyond the final stage of lockdown easing is the “responsible” thing to do.

“For the foreseeable future I will be carrying a face mask with me, I think that’s a very responsible thing for anyone to do,” he said.

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Reaction to change in mask rules

“As I have said, the pandemic is not over.

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“If I’m in a crowded or enclosed space, I will wear a face mask. In fact I will wear one if I was next to someone or near someone that felt uncomfortable with others not wearing face masks.

“And that’s what I mean by personality responsibility.”

He added that he is “very comfortable” with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that almost all COVID rules will be lifted at the next stage of the government’s roadmap, planned for 19 July.

Customers wear face masks as they shop inside Primark in Oxford Street, London
Image: There will no longer be a legal requirement for people to wear face masks in shops

If lockdown easing goes ahead, people in England will be encouraged to use their personal judgement on the risks of infection – and they will be advised that wearing a mask can reduce the risk to themselves and others in environments such as crowded spaces.

But Mr Ashworth raised concerns about removing the legal requirement for people to wear face masks while cases are still increasing, particularly on public transport.

Getting on a bus on tube without wearing a mask would be “putting others at risk”, he told Sky News, adding: “We should all continue mask wearing because it is about keeping all of us safe.”

Asked if people are “sensible enough to come to that conclusion on their own”, Mr Ashworth replied: “Well I hope they are, I hope they are – but I would have maintained the mask mandate for now.”

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‘Mask wearing is extremely valuable’

Mr Ashworth’s comments come as the PM faces a continued backlash over his plans to ditch rules on wearing face masks.

Doctors, regional mayors, trade unions and health charities are among those who have expressed fears over the relaxed measures.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also warned that lifting all restrictions in one go would be “reckless” – and is calling for face coverings to remain mandatory on public transport.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul of the British Medical Association said it was “increasingly concerning” for Mr Johnson to “decide to go full steam” on easing measures – despite warnings over rising hospital cases and deaths.

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PM makes mask wearing a choice in weeks

He urged ministers to ensure the wearing of masks is compulsory “until the rampant spread of infection has been brought under control and more of the population are fully vaccinated”.

And Lord Barwell, a Conservative peer who was former prime minister Theresa May’s chief of staff, said: “The decision to make mask wearing voluntary on public transport is a mistake.

 Sky News

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