Covid-19: Masks will become personal choice, says Robert Jenrick

  • 7 months   ago

England will move into a period without legal restrictions where the public will have to exercise "personal responsibility" including on face masks, the housing secretary has said.

Robert Jenrick told the BBC's Andrew Marr people would "come to different conclusions" over masks, but he trusted people "to exercise good judgement".


He told Sky News he would choose not to wear a face mask.

All legal restrictions are expected to be lifted in England on 19 July.

Mr Jenrick's comments come after doctors warned that some measures - including the use of face masks - should be kept beyond July, with the British Medical Association (BMA) calling the rise in infections alarming.

When asked on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show whether he was confident that all restrictions would end on 19 July, Mr Jenrick said: "It does look as if - thanks to the success of the vaccine programme - that we now have the scope to roll back those restrictions and return to a normality as far as possible."

He said cases might continue to rise significantly as restrictions were eased.

"But we now have to move into a different period where we learn to live with the virus, we take precautions and we as individuals take personal responsibility," he said.

When asked if the requirement to wear face masks in certain settings will definitely go, Mr Jenrick said: "I can't make that commitment this morning because the prime minister will make an announcement in the coming days - it does look if the data is in the right place."

He urged people to get double vaccinated.

Earlier, the minister told Sky News: "We are now going to 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."

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there was a compelling argument that easing Covid restrictions was needed for the country's health.

He said while the steps taken had saved countless lives, rules had caused a shocking rise in domestic violence and a terrible impact on mental health.

We need to learn to live with Covid, he added, acknowledging that "cases are going to rise significantly".

Mr Javid said: "The economic arguments for opening up are well known, but for me, the health arguments are equally compelling.

"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," he added.

He said England was on track to meet the fourth and final stage of lockdown lifting - but the government had 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."

Mr Javid warned the backlog facing the NHS would get "far worse before it gets better", as millions of people had avoided coming forward for healthcare during the pandemic.

"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."

A further 24,885 Covid cases and 18 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded in the UK on Saturday.

The BMA said that the number of people admitted to hospitals in England with Covid-19 had risen by 55% in a week.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chairman, called the jump in cases alarming - fuelled by the spread of the Delta variant and increased social mixing.

"It makes no sense to remove restrictions in their entirety in just over two weeks' time," Dr Nagpaul said.

The BMA called for the continued use of face masks and new ventilation standards, among other measures.

Meanwhile, a psychologist warned that letting fully vaccinated people avoid measures such as self-isolation risked a "loss of compliance" more generally.

Prof Robert West said the move - which ministers are said to be considering for after restrictions end in England - could breed resentment and encourage those without both jabs to ignore the rules.

Mr Javid replaced Matt Hancock as health secretary last weekend.

Mr Hancock resigned after he breached social distancing guidance by kissing an aide.

Source: BBC