When can we stop wearing face masks? UK rules on face coverings in shops and other settings explained for July

Social distancing and mask wearing measures were scrapped on England’s so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on 19 July

Coronavirus safety measures such as mask wearing and social distancing are now optional in England as part of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Shoring up the details of the so-called ‘Freedom Day’, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would “depend on the circumstances” when asked if he would continue to wear a face mask.

He said: “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.

Face masks have become a common sight in the last year, but when might we be rid of them? (Photo: Shutterstock)

“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.”

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When can we stop wearing face masks in the UK?

From 19 July, the legal requirement to wear face coverings in enclosed public places was removed in England.

Many hope that face masks will not be mandatory this summer - but they still could be (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said they were still "expected and recommended" in crowded indoor areas.

Ministers will recommend that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded areas such as on trains, trams and buses - although not in venues such as nightclubs.

The decision comes after a strong backlash against ministers’ plans to no longer legally compel people to wear masks in certain settings.

The Government’s Covid-19 summer response says that “legal requirements to wear a face covering will be lifted in all settings” in England.

Commuters wear face masks as they pass through Vauxhall underground station in June 2020 - nearly a full year on, face coverings remain mandatory (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

However, to help reduce the spread of Covid-19, guidance “will advise that wearing a face covering will reduce your risk and the risk to others, where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces.”

In Scotland, it is currently likely that face coverings will remain part of life - even when social distancing rules come to an end.

Social distancing rules are due to come to an end by 9 August in Scotland, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that face coverings are likely to be still required on public transport and in shops. A date has not yet been set for when they would be discarded fully.

In Wales, the Welsh government has said face masks will remain mandatory in some public places until Covid-19 is no longer a public health threat.

(Graphic: Kimberley Mogg/JPI Media)

Masks must still be worn in taxis, on trains and buses, as well as health and social care settings when coronavirus restrictions are eased.

“Active further consideration” is also being given to decide if they should still be required by law in other settings such as shops.

In Northern Ireland, the rules about face coverings are expected to be considered next month.

However, the Stormont Executive has already announced that the legal requirement to wear face coverings in places of worship is also set to be removed on 26 July.

Will people keep wearing masks in England?

Two-thirds of adults in Great Britain said they still plan to cover their faces in shops, following the lifting of most coronavirus legal restrictions in England, according to new data.

The same percentage – 64 per cent – plan to wear masks on public transport, while 60 per cent plan to avoid crowded places, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

More than half who were surveyed between July 7 and 11 said they were worried about plans to remove legal restrictions. One fifth said they were “very worried”.

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