British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to announce that the mandatory use of face masks on public transport, stores and other public settings will be lifted on July 19 – the UK’s so-called “Freedom Day.”
From that day on, masks will become voluntary and people won’t face fines of up to £6,400 – about $8,800 – if caught without one, The Sun reported.
The requirement to scan codes when entering bars, eateries, hair salon, gyms and other venues also will be dropped – and the government will scrap rules that require businesses to collect customers’ contact-tracing details, according to the Sunday Times of London.
“With every day that goes by it’s clearer to me and all our scientific advisers that we’re very likely to be in a position on July 19 to say that really is the terminus and we can go back to life as it was before COVID as far as possible,” Johnson told reporters recently.
Johnson has won support from the new health secretary, Sajid Javid, for scrapping the masking mandate on July 19, but he faces a tough battle to win over senior medical advisers who stress that the precaution will still be needed for several more months.
“July 19th remains our target date. The prime minister has called it our terminus date. For me, the 19th of July is not only the end of the line but the start of a exciting new journey for our country,” Javid said, Reuters reported.
A source told The Sun: “It’s all part of a shift from legal enforcement to common sense.
There will be some official guidance that in certain settings, like a crowded train, it might make sense to wear a mask.
“But it will no longer be compulsory. People will be able to decide for themselves whether or not to cover their face,” the source added.
One minister told the outlet on Sunday: “It’s all about learning to live with COVID. This virus is going to be around for some time and with so many of us now vaccinated, we’re going to have to make up our own minds on when to cover up.”
Officials say a mass vaccination campaign is weakening the link between cases and deaths as Britain — which has one of the highest official death tolls from COVID — is seeing case numbers rise again, with daily increases topping 10,000 in recent days.
The country’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and other health advisers want the use of masks to continue after July 19.
British Medical Association chief Chaand Nagpaul wants indoor mask use to remain among the “targeted measures” to stop the bug from spreading.
But Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he expects to ditch his mask “as soon as possible” after the legal requirement is lifted, The Sun reported.
Environment Secretary George Eustice also appeared eager to turn the page.
“I think a lot of people will want to shed those masks. I want to get back to normal,” he told the outlet.
With Post wires