A Cabinet minister today insisted he will ditch face masks the moment they are not compulsory – saying that should be July 19.
He also reiterated that the plan is for ‘all legal restrictions’ to lift in England on the so-called Covid ‘Freedom Day’ next month.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also warned that they should still be required on the Tube and buses as they give people ‘confidence’ they are safe.
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Eustice accepted that some people might want to continue with face coverings and they could be ‘advisory in some settings’.
But he suggested that he personally would be abandoning them as soon as he can.
Meanwhile, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg ramped up expectations of restrictions being fully removed as he told MPs that the description of July 19 as a ‘terminus point’ is likely to mean Covid certificates and other rules are dropped completely.
George Eustice dismissed the idea he would keep wearing face coverings when they are not required, saying: ‘I want to get back to normal.’
Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to Aldershot barracks today) appears increasingly fixed on the July 19 unlocking after internal government assessments warned keeping even limited rules for longer would spell disaster for the hospitality sector and hundreds of thousands of jobs
Malta and Ibiza set to join ‘green list’ amid row over ending quarantine for double-jabbed Brits
Ministers are preparing to lift Covid travel restrictions on the Balearic islands and Malta today amid a Cabinet row over dropping ‘amber list’ rules for the double jabbed.
The list of destinations where quarantine-free travel is allowed is set to be expanded at a crunch meeting, in a glimmer of hope for would-be holidaymakers.
Plans to drop ‘amber list’ restrictions for the double jabbed will also be considered – with a Cabinet split emerging over how soon it should happen.
However, even if the rules are loosened it will be of limited use as Britons still face tough curbs imposed by other countries – who are alarmed at the spike in infections caused by the Indian, or Delta, variant.
Angela Merkel last night urged all EU states to follow Germany’s lead by requiring travellers from the UK to quarantine.
But Environment Secretary George Eustice said today that Mrs Merkel’s stance was ‘unjustified’.
‘Well, what we want to do on July 19, and the Prime Minister said that the data looks good to be able to have that end, is to remove all of the legal restrictions,’ he told Sky News.
‘That’s all of the legal requirements to do things, to be taken away completely.
‘Now, 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.
‘But the objective of that final stage is to remove the legal requirement to do these things.’
Asked if he would still wear a mask once restrictions end, Mr Eustice said: ‘I wouldn’t, no.
‘I have to be honest, once I’m told that it’s safe not to, I want to get back to normal. I think a lot of people will want to shed those masks.’
There are fears of chaos if the government does not give total clarity on the rules around face coverings and social distancing from July 19.
Ending all legal restrictions would mean dropping limits on indoor mixing, as well as social distancing in bars and restaurants.
Work-from-home guidance is also expected to be ditched on the landmark date, although ministers are unlikely actively to urge people to return to office.
The PM appears increasingly fixed on the unlocking after internal government assessments warned keeping even limited rules for longer would spell disaster for the hospitality sector and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
However, it is understood there is almost no chance the date will be brought forward to July 5 despite immense pressure from Tory MPs.
Questions have been raised over how shops and restaurants could be prevented from demanding masks are worn – and whether customers will have the right to come on the premises if they refuse.
There are also concerns about grey areas if train, bus, and taxi firms want to make wearing masks a condition of travel.
And it is unclear what will happen to the obligation to wear masks on flights, which looks likely to remain in place.
Indicating that Mr Khan would support keeping masks after July 19, a spokesman said yesterday: ‘Evidence shows that the wearing of facemasks gives many Londoners the confidence that they can travel safely on public transport.
‘People feeling confident they can travel on our tubes, buses and trains as they get busier will be a vital part of encouraging more people into central London as restrictions are lifted further, and it is something that we will continue to look at closely.’
Mr Rees-Mogg insisted ‘terminus’ is an ‘end point and so it should be’ today as he hinted that the Covid-status certification system will be abandoned.
The system could show whether people have tested negative for coronavirus or had the vaccine to allow them access to certain events and venues.
Conservative MP Chris Green said he would have expected Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove to have appeared before MPs to set out the arguments over the project – including the ethics, practicality or necessity of it.
He asked: ‘Does the Leader of the House share my view that if terminus day is to live up to its name then there will be no need for this scheme to go ahead?’
Mr Rees-Mogg replied in the Commons: ‘As I said last week, terminus is Paddington not Crewe.
‘It is the end of the line, it is not an interchange and that must be the key part of terminus day.
‘Lots of evidence has been gathered in relation to Covid status certificates. Final decisions have not been made, but the Government will update the House on the road map as it continues.
‘But his point on terminus is right, it is an end point and so it should be.’
Internationally, health ministers from G7 countries earlier this month agreed on the need to work together to develop ‘mutual recognition of testing and vaccination certificates across countries’.
Domestically, a review into the potential use of certification had been due to report last month but was delayed.
The Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) has said the certification should not be a part of the planned rolling back of restrictions and should be scrapped.
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Eustice accepted that some people might want to continue with face coverings and they could be ‘advisory in some settings’
The First Minister brought her country into line with England by pushing the country’s downgrading to Level Zero back to July 19 because of the spread of the Indian variant.
She pledged to scrap all laws covering Covid restrictions by August 9 – but admitted that Scots might well be asked voluntarily to continue social distancing and wear masks in some situations after that date.
Scotland was meant to have its own relative Freedom Day on June 28, but rates of infection, particularly across the most populous central belt, led to today’s announcement.
Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood that life would feel ‘much, much less restrictive’ after August 9.
She also pledged to ‘encourage support’ for continued home working after workplaces are fully able to reopen.
Nicola Sturgeon raised the prospect of some Scottish Covid restrictions remaining in place into the autumn earlier this week as she postponed ending the country’s lockdown
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