LEFT-wing activists have been accused of using face masks as a political weapon to try to wreck Boris Johnson’s back-to-work drive.
Union militants have mounted a bid to halt the plan to lift all Covid restrictions in eight days.
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They have warned that workers will be put at risk and are planning a campaign of opposition.
Hard-left Labour MPs have rallied to the cause, demanding Freedom Day is put on hold.
They have set up a Zero Covid Coalition to demand a full UK-wide lockdown until the virus has been wiped out almost completely.
But furious Tories claim it is a ploy to skew the PM’s roadmap and delay a return to normal conditions.
They also fear it will stoke up division among the public which could lead to flare-ups on buses, trains and in shops. Tory MP Esther McVey said: “Masks have become the new Brexit. It has got the nation split over whether or not to wear them.
“Some feel safer with them, others loathe them. The big difference with Brexit though is you cannot hide which side you are on — the bare face or the mask give you away.”
The PM faces a tough battle with union leaders over the return to normality in schools, on public transport and other workplaces.
Unite’s national officer Bobby Morton said: “To end the requirement to wear masks on public transport would be an act of gross negligence by the Government. Not only does mask-wearing reduce transmissions, it helps provide reassurance to drivers and passengers.”
Shopworkers’ leader Paddy Lillis, of Usdaw, said: “This is not the right time to water down safety in stores.”
The Zero Covid Coalition has been convened with the help of politicians, including ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and senior figure Diane Abbott.
She was joined by 400 activists in an online launch rally. But a Tory MP said: “Some union leaders want to use masks as weapons to attack the Government. This is creating division.”
The PM is expected to confirm masks will no longer be compulsory when he reveals tomorrow if Freedom Day will be on July 19.
The Welsh government said face coverings will still play an important role.
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