COVID-19: No ‘legal compulsion’ to wear face masks when restrictions are lifted, minister says

There will be no “legal compulsion” to wear face masks once England’s coronavirus restrictions are lifted, the environment secretary has told Sky News, as he said he will ditch his face covering when the rule is scrapped.

George Eustice said the government wants “all of the legal requirements to do things to be taken away completely” at step four of its roadmap for lifting COVID-19 measures, which is currently scheduled for 19 July.

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“Whether there will still be some people who might choose to wear masks or whether it may be advisory in some settings, that’s a separate matter,” he said.

“But the objective of that final stage is to remove the legal requirement to do these things.”

Asked if he would continue to wear a face covering beyond that point, the minister replied: “I wouldn’t, no. I have to be honest, once I’m told it’s safe not to, I want to get back to normal.

“I think a lot of people will want to shed those masks.

“But while it’s contributing to controlling the pandemic, yes I will wear my mask like everybody else and do my bit.”

The wearing of face coverings in a range of settings, including in shops and on public transport, has been required since last summer.

Mr Eustice’s comments come after an expert told Sky News that social distancing and mask-wearing are here to stay as new variants will continue to emerge and be “troublesome”.

David Nabarro, a special envoy on coronavirus for the World Health Organisation, suggested that mask-wearing and keeping apart would still be necessary for areas of high infection.

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