Masks will be ‘expected’ in enclosed indoor areas, says vaccines minister

Mask-wearing will still be “expected” in indoor enclosed spaces after July 19, the vaccines minister has said.

The Government has come under criticism for removing the mandatory wearing of face masks in the next stage of restrictions, which the Prime Minister is expected to confirm on Monday.

Sixteen 16 health charities have urged ministers to support around 500,000 people for whom the Covid-19 vaccines may give less protection, meanwhile more than 120 scientists and doctors also signed a letter in The Lancet accusing the UK Government of conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment” and urging it to rethink the move to abandon all curbs.

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But Nadhim Zahawi told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News that guidance set out on Monday would say people were expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces, although the legal requirement to do so would be dropped.

Mr Zahawi: “I think it’s important that we remain cautious and careful and the guidelines that we’ll set out tomorrow will demonstrate that, including guidelines that people are expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces.”

It comes as Health Secretary Sajid Javid told The Sunday Telegraph anyone who would not wear a mask in an enclosed space was “just being irresponsible”.

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Given Sajid Javid now considers it irresponsible to not wear masks then it would be equally irresponsible for his Government to carry on with the plan to lift mask requirements while infections are heading to 100,000 a day.”

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In Wales face coverings are to remain compulsory on public transport, and shadow education secretary Kate Green said she understood Labour’s mayors would also mandate them where they had control over public transport such as the trams in Manchester and the Tube in London.

She told Sky News: “I hope they will and I believe, I think I’m right in saying, that Andy (Burnham) has already indicated that here in Manchester, that’s what he will do.

“I certainly think that having travelled regularly on both the Tube and the tram all through the pandemic when I was allowed to, that wearing masks and seeing others wearing masks is a source of great reassurance and people want to do it.”

She said Labour supported coronavirus restrictions lifting on July 19 if the data supported it, but that some measures should stay in place.

“What we don’t want is to lift the restrictions without keeping mitigations in place that would enable that to happen more safely,” she said.

“So for example, that’s why we’ve said that the mandatory mask-wearing should continue in public places.

“That’s why we’ve said that there should be more support and requirement on public spaces to have proper ventilation systems.

“That’s why we said that the financial support for people on low incomes who have to isolate needs to be adequate so that they can afford to do that.

“So yes, we do want to see the restrictions lifted if the data confirmed that that’s the right thing to do, and I hope, and the indications seem to be that it will do. But we want that with the mitigations kept in place.”

Covid-19 vaccine doses in the UK
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Mr Zahawi also dismissed a story in The Sunday Times which suggested the gap between receiving the two doses of the Covid jab could be cut to four weeks.

“The real-world data, the clinical data suggests that actually the eight-week interval offers that additional fortification in terms of protection with the two doses, at much better than having the interval shortened any further.”

He said those most severely affected by coronavirus now were those who had not had the vaccination.