July 12, 2021 1.49 pm This story is over 31 months old

Personal responsibility for masks laid on public, but government “expects” them to be worn indoors

Government ministers say it won’t lead to “confusion”

The government will still “expect” people to wear masks in enclosed indoor spaces, but they won’t be enforced by law anymore and left entirely to personal responsibility, officials said this weekend.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm at a press conference on Monday evening that almost all the coronavirus restrictions of the past few months will be lifted – including the requirement to wear face coverings to protect others.

Ahead of the announcement, vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News on Sunday that the planned lifting would go ahead despite a surge in cases, and that guidance from the PM would say people should continue to wear masks in crowded spaces even after the legal requirement to do so ends.

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

On Monday morning health minister Edward Argar told BBC Radio 4 the move would not lead to confusion over the rules, but that legal obligations and restrictions would “fall away”.

He said there would instead be “a move towards personal and corporate responsibility based on clear and strong guidance”.

“I trust in the innate sense of the British people to exercise that responsibility,” he said.

It means companies such as those running the trains would have to impose the extra restrictions themselves.

Opposition leaders have raised concerns that the changes could lead to confusion and confrontations between those refusing to wear masks going forward.

The changes due to be announced today also include:

  • The end of one metre-plus social distancing
  • The limits on visitors to care homes will be lifted
  • The legal limits on people meeting indoors and outdoors will be removed
  • All businesses will be allowed to reopen, including night clubs
  • The request to work from home where possible will also be scrapped
  • No COVID certificate will be required to enter any venue or event – though businesses may choose to require some way to show COVID status