The Prime Minister announced that from Stage 4 of his lockdown roadmap, Britons would no longer be legally required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. Instead the Government would shift its approach toward asking the public to personal responsibility for protecting themselves against the virus.
“The announcement today is all about headlines, it’s not about public health,” Sir Keir said responding to the announcement.
“We all want the restrictions to be lifted and we are going to have to find a way of living with the virus, but that can’t just be a soundbite. We need a proper plan
“To throw off all protections at the same time, when the infection rate is going up, is reckless.”
He said the country needed “a balanced approach and for ministers to unveil “a proper plan”, including a number of continued restrictions.
The Labour leader said: “One of them would be masks in enclosed places and on public transport – that’s a common-sense position.
“More ventilation, that’s happening in other countries, is absolutely essential and proper payments for those that need to self-isolate.”
His comments echo those made by union leaders who warned earlier today that it would be “an act of gross negligence by the Government” to end the requirement to wear face coverings on public transport from July 19.
Union bosses claimed the Government would “have blood on its hands” by lifting the draconian requirements.
Bobby Morton, the national officer for passenger transport at the trade union Unite, which represents tens of thousands of public transport workers, said: “To end the requirement to wear masks on public transport would be an act of gross negligence by the Government.
“Rates of infection are continuing to increase and not only does mask-wearing reduce transmissions, it helps provide reassurance to drivers and to passengers who are nervous about using public transport.
“The idea of personal responsibility and hoping that people will wear masks is absolutely ridiculous.”
Explaining his decision at the Downing Street televised briefing, Mr Johnson said he wanted to move away from “Government diktat” and said it would “depend on the circumstances” as to whether he would continue to wear a face mask.
He said people should “exercise their personal responsibility but to remember the value of face coverings both in protecting themselves and others”.
The Prime Minister explained: “I think that what we’re trying to do is move from universal Government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility and clearly there’s a big difference between travelling on a crowded tube train and sitting late at night in a virtually empty carriage on the main railway line.
“So what we want to do is for people to exercise their personal responsibility but to remember the value of face coverings both in protecting themselves, and others.”
Mr Johnson’s easing of face mask rules comes despite widespread support for their continued imposition.
A new YouGov poll released today found 71 percent of Britons believe face masks should continue to be mandatory on public transport beyond July 19.
Two thirds, 66 percent, also believe the coverings should also continue to be mandatory in shops and some enclosed public places.
The pollsters surveryed 2,748 British aduls on July 5.
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