Wearing face masks will no longer be compulsory after ‘freedom day’ on July 19, Robert Jenrick has confirmed.
Mr Jenrick said ‘the state won’t be telling you what to do’ after rules are eased and there will be a shift in emphasis towards ‘personal choice’ and judgement.
His comments came as Sajid Javid said the best way to protect the nation’s health is to lift the remaining Covid-19 curbs.
Writing exclusively for The Mail on Sunday, the new Health Secretary said: ‘The economic arguments for opening up are well known, but for me, the health arguments are equally compelling.’
Mr Javid’s remarks represent a sharp change in tone from that of his predecessor Matt Hancock, who was forced to resign last weekend after his affair with an aide was exposed.
Mr Johnson is preparing to announce a raft of measures to come into force from July 19 which will ‘make Britain the most open country in Europe’.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that under ‘freedom day’ plans expected to be signed off by the Cabinet tomorrow:
- The Prime Minister is ‘determined’ that fully vaccinated Britons will be able to travel to amber-list countries including Spain and Greece without having to self-isolate when they return;
- Wearing face masks will become voluntary everywhere – including on public transport – with the exception of hospitals and other healthcare settings;
- Those who have received two doses of a vaccine will not be required to self-isolate or take Covid-19 tests if they are alerted that they have come into contact with someone with the virus – but tests will still be available for all those who want them;
- The school ‘bubbles’ system that has seen hundreds of thousands of pupils being forced to self-isolate at home will be axed and replaced with daily testing;
- Restaurants, pubs and shops will no longer have to demand that customers provide their personal data or sign in with a ‘QR’ code.
Sajid Javid (pictured) today said the best way to protect the nation’s health is to lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the latest coronavirus data is ‘very positive’ as he confirmed wearing face masks will no longer be compulsory
Vaccination Nurse Lorraine Mooney gives a vaccination to a member of the public outside a bus in the car park of Crieff Community Hospital
Mr Jenrick told Sky News this morning that the nation is ‘now reaching a different phase in the virus’.
‘We are not going to put the Covid-19 virus behind us forever, we are going to have to learn to live with it,’ he said.
‘But thanks to the enormous success of our vaccine programme the fact that now we have 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 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 many of those restrictions that have been so difficult for us and learn to live with the virus.
‘That does mean that we are going to have to treat it carefully, we are going to have to keep on monitoring the cases and we are going to have to ensure that every adult gets double-vaxxed because that is the key to keeping the virus under control as we move into the autumn and the winter.’
Some scientific experts have called for the rules on wearing face masks in shops and on public transport to be retained.
But Mr Jenrick said wearing face coverings will be made a matter of choice and personal responsibility.
He said: ‘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.
‘We are going to, I think, 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 judgement.
‘So different people will come to different conclusions on things like masks for example.’
Asked directly if he will ditch his mask should he be permitted to do so, the Housing Secretary said: ‘I will. I don’t particularly want to wear a mask. I don’t think a lot of people enjoy doing it.
‘We will be moving into a phase where these will be matters of personal choice and so some members of society will want to do so for perfectly legitimate reasons.
‘But it will be a different period where we as private citizens make these judgements rather than the Government telling you what to do.’
But Professor Adam Finn, from the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he will continue to wear a face mask ‘indefinitely’ regardless of changes to the rules.
He told Sky News: ‘Well on a personal level I shall certainly be continuing to wear a mask if I’ve got any symptoms or if I’m in an enclosed space with lots of other people for a prolonged period of time, indefinitely in fact.’
He explained: ‘I think we learned, as paediatricians, we learned that we can avoid massive problems with children getting sick in the winter by doing these kind of measures.
‘We simply didn’t see the epidemics of respiratory viruses last winter that we’ve seen every year throughout my career.
‘So I actually now completely understand it, whereas I was puzzled before when I saw Asian people in the Tube wearing masks in the pre-pandemic era.
‘So I think mask wearing is obviously something we’ve learned is extremely valuable to do under certain circumstances. That doesn’t mean I’ll wear a mask all the time but it does mean I will some of the time.’
Mr Johnson is expected to set out the findings of a social distancing review this week, before confirming details of the greatly relaxed rules on July 12.
A Number 10 source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘This is a big injection of freedom that will make us the most open country in Europe.’
The developments came as Britain’s world-beating vaccination programme continued apace.
The latest figures showed 85.7 per cent of adults have now had their first jab, with 63.4 per cent getting both doses of a vaccine.
In his article, Mr Javid says the UK is ‘on track’ to escape almost every vestige of lockdown on July 19, adding: ‘We will have a country that is not just freer, but healthier, too.’
But he makes no secret of the challenges he faces as Health Secretary, admitting that he has ‘the biggest in-tray I’ve had at any department – and I’ve run five’.
Setting out his priorities, he said: ‘The first is how we restore our freedoms and learn to live with Covid-19. The second is to tackle the NHS backlog – something that we know is going to get far worse before it gets better.
‘We are on track for July 19 and we have to be honest with people about the fact that we cannot eliminate Covid. We also need to be clear that cases are going to rise significantly… But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view.’
Mr Javid said an estimated seven million fewer people than normal approached the NHS for treatment during the pandemic.
He added: ‘The steps we took saved countless lives but also led to the build-up of a vast elective backlog – checks, appointments and treatments for all the less urgent, but often just as important, health issues.’
Mr Javid’s comments mark a sharp change in tone from that of his predecessor Matt Hancock (pictured), who was forced to resign last weekend after his affair with an aide was exposed
Figures released in April showed the number of people waiting for hospital treatment in England exceeded 5 million for the first time since records began in 2007, prompting the Royal College of Surgeons to call for specialist hubs to carry out delayed routine operations such as knee and hip replacements.
Mr Javid – who quit as Chancellor last year after clashing with Number 10 aide Dominic Cummings – also acknowledged that lockdown has ’caused a shocking rise in domestic violence and a terrible impact on so many people’s mental health’.
Senior sources said that Mr Javid has ushered in a new approach towards handling the pandemic, following Mr Hancock’s strong support for lockdown and coronavirus restrictions. ‘Sajid has pushed down on the accelerator,’ said one.
Yesterday’s official figures showed almost 25,000 new coronavirus cases and 18 deaths within 24 hours.
But as Mr Javid points out, the last time the UK reported similar numbers of new cases, about 500 people were dying each day, more than 25 times the current rate.
SAJID JAVID: The economic arguments for opening up Britain are well known. But, for me, the health case is equally compelling
Moments after the Prime Minister called to ask me to become Health and Social Care Secretary last Saturday night, I spoke to my teenage daughter in the kitchen.
‘You won’t have much to sort out then, Dad,’ she said sarcastically.
When I came back to Westminster on Sunday morning, I found the biggest in-tray I’ve had at any department – and I’ve run five.
I’ve spent the last year working with Harvard University on how governments can learn from this pandemic and be better prepared for future challenges; now I’m the one faced with so many of those tough choices.
I feel both the heavy responsibility and urgency that comes with this job.
My first video call on vaccine progress had to be at the same time as the England-Germany match. It was all going well until JVT (Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England) suddenly took off his headphones because he didn’t want to hear the score before he watched a recording of the match.
It was an honour to start the meeting by thanking the team who have delivered the rollout, including everyone in the NHS, the Vaccines Taskforce and the officials in my department.
Amid the endless policy memos and reams of data, I see two immediate challenges.
Moments after the Prime Minister called to ask me to become Health and Social Care Secretary last Saturday night, I spoke to my teenage daughter in the kitchen, SAJID JAVID writes
The first is how we restore our freedoms and learn to live with Covid-19. The second is to tackle the NHS backlog – something that we know is going to get far worse before it gets better.
We are on track for July 19 and we have to be honest with people about the fact that we cannot eliminate Covid.
We also need to be clear that cases are going to rise significantly. I know many people will be cautious about the easing of restrictions – that’s completely understandable. But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view. We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu.
The economic arguments for opening up are well known, but for me, the health arguments are equally compelling.
The pandemic has hit some groups disproportionately hard. Rules that we have had to put in place have caused a shocking rise in domestic violence and a terrible impact on so many people’s mental health. All the progress we have made is thanks to the sacrifices of the British people – and our phenomenal vaccine programme. The jabs are working. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that eight in ten UK adults have the Covid-19 antibodies that help the body fight the disease.
The implications of this are huge.
Tragically, the last time we had 28,000 new cases of Covid-19 in a day, we saw about 500 people die each day. On Friday, we had almost 28,000 cases a day, but 24 times fewer people lost their lives.
When I came back to Westminster on Sunday morning, I found the biggest in-tray I’ve had at any department – and I’ve run five, SAJID JAVID writes
There will always be the possibility that we have to deal with dangerous new variants that evade the vaccine but I encourage everyone to get their jabs now if they haven’t already done so. It is the single biggest contribution you can make to this national effort.
We have many other crucial health challenges that we need to confront. We protected the NHS to make sure it was there for everyone who needed care. The steps we took saved countless lives but also led to the build-up of a vast ‘elective’ backlog – checks, appointments and treatments for all the less urgent, but often just as important, health issues.
Because of the pandemic, we estimate that about seven million fewer people than normal came forward for healthcare. Even if only some of that demand returns, we will see enormous pressure on the NHS.
To help meet this demand, build a better NHS and bust the backlog, we need to build on the changes we’ve all embraced through the pandemic, such as using NHS 111 to direct patients to the most appropriate setting to receive care, expanding the use of our pharmacies and encouraging more people to use the NHS app.
My first video call on vaccine progress had to be at the same time as the England-Germany match. It was all going well until JVT (Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England) suddenly took off his headphones because he didn’t want to hear the score before he watched a recording of the match, SAJID JAVID writes
We have to keep doing all of that, and more.
Of course, if you are feeling unwell, you need to come forward. The NHS is always there for you – and now in many different ways.
We’re putting record levels of funding into the NHS. In March, we committed a further £7 billion of funding – including £1 billion to begin tackling the elective backlog and about £500 million for mental health services and investment in staff.
And we’re bringing so many more talented colleagues into the workforce. We have record numbers employed in the NHS, with more than 58,300 more staff in hospital and community health services since March last year, including over 5,600 more doctors and 10,800 nurses.
We’re also embracing technology to help staff spend less time on paperwork and more on patients.
It’s time to build on the spirit of innovation we’ve all embraced and use it for the other challenges we face: from finally fixing social care and putting it on a sustainable footing, to tackling the health inequalities that the pandemic has brought to the fore.
I’m determined we get that right.
There’s a lot of work ahead, but if we hold on to the spirit that has seen us through these difficult days, we will have a country that is not just freer, but healthier, too.
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