State will stop ‘telling you what to do’ on July 19, says Robert Jenrick

A Cabinet minister has said July 19 will see the end of the Government "telling the public what to do" as he claims face masks will become "a personal choice" after this date.  

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the data on current infection rates is looking "very positive" and is enabling the country to progress to a "much more permissive regime". 

Downing Street is expected to lift the majority of coronavirus restrictions, including the one-metre-plus rule in hospitality venues, on so called ‘Freedom Day’. 

Mr Jenrick, who has pledged to abandon his own face mask after July 19, said life will "return to normality as far as possible".   

He said: "We are going to 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."    

Mr Jenrick appeared to confirm earlier reports published on Sunday that mask wearing will become voluntary in all settings and the one metre-plus rule in hospitality venues will end, meaning a return to drinking at the bar without the requirement for table service.

Mass events, including festivals, is also set to be allowed under the proposals for the final stage of the road map out of lockdown. 

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, backed up Mr Jenrick’s appraisal of the beneficial impact vaccines were having on guarding against the virus.

Professor Powis told BBC’s Andrew Marr that Public Health England had found vaccines were affording "over 90 per cent protection against severe disease", in a result that meant fewer sufferers were requiring hospital treatment.

"So the link is not totally broken, but it’s severely weakened," he added while also urging the public to keep up the habits adopted during the pandemic, such as washing hands more frequently and not going into work if feeling unwell. 

He also said it would "not necessarily (be) a bad thing" if people continued to wear masks in crowded spaces as "those habits to reduce infections are a good thing to keep".

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which provides evidence to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said July 19 is "probably the right time" to consider ending the wearing of face masks. 

He added: "I hope when we move into the autumn we can start to have a little bit more of what I call the flu relationship with Covid."

The possibility of a wholesale easing of restrictions will come as a blow to senior doctors, with the British Medical Association petitioning for some measures to remain in place to arrest the "alarming" rise in Covid-19 cases in England.

The latest Government figures show that, as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 24,885 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, while a further 18 people had died within 28 days of testing positive.

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