The wearing of face masks is to be made voluntary in all settings from July 19, it has been confirmed.
The government is today announcing details of the final easing of national Covid restrictions in a fortnight’s time.
And as part of the great unlocking, Boris Johnson confirmed the legal requirement to wear face coverings will be removed completely.
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It is currently illegal to not wear a face covering, unless medically exempt, in a number of specified settings, including public transport and shops and supermarkets.
However, these rules are to be scrapped.
Instead, guidance will be issued suggesting where people might choose to wear a face covering, such as in enclosed and crowded places, but this will be voluntary.
Although advice will be issued that face-coverings could “reduce your risk and the risk to others”, it will be up to individuals to decide whether they want to wear one.
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This will also apply in the NHS and care homes – where face masks will again not be a legal requirement, even though they will be advised.
There will be no targeted guidance for wearing masks on public transport or on flights.
With social distancing remaining in place at arrivals halls, this technically means people will have to socially-distance in arrivals halls – but not by law wear a mask on the plane.
However individual airlines will be free to tell their passengers to wear masks on board as a condition of traveling with them.
Whilst businesses more widely will be free set rules for entry to their own premises.
For example, rail firms could attempt to mandate masks as a condition, although there is the possibility that this might end up clashing with equality law.
Boris Johnson said at his Downing Street briefing this evening that the government were “moving away from universal government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility.”
He added: “There is a big difference between travelling on a crowded tube train and sitting late at night on a virtually empty carriageway on the main railway line.
“What we want is for people to exercise their personal responsibility but to remember the value of face coverings in protecting themselves and others.”
While the lifting of remaining measures is expected to go ahead in two weeks time, on Monday July 19, this will still be dependent on if the four tests are still met and will be confirmed next Monday.