Boris Johnson has said it is “common sense” to wear face-masks in confined spaces such as public transport, despite plans to stop them being mandatory on 19 July.
The Prime Minister made the concession during a combative Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) earlier today.
‘The Johnson Variant’
Johnson clashed with Labour leader Keir Starmer over the plans to lift further restrictions on 19 July while cases are rising considerably due to the Delta Variant, or “Johnson Variant” as Starmer dubbed it.
Starmer said the government’s “reckless” plans to lift all remaining restrictions on 19 July will lead to major disruption and hundreds of thousands of people being forced to self-isolate every week throughout the summer.
The Labour leader pushed Johnson to say what he thought the impact would be on hospitalisations, deaths and Long Covid cases.
Starmer said that if, as has been predicted, infections reach 100,000 per day, this would lead to massive disruption.
Quoting recent SAGE analysis, he claimed that higher infection rates could lead to new variants, greater pressure on the NHS and render the Test and Trace system less effective.
Starmer also warned that many people are now deleting the NHS app from their phones, over concern that the number of people asked to self-isolate will skyrocket once all restrictions are lifted.
‘Balanced and reasonable’
Johnson insisted that the government’s approach is “balanced and reasonable”.
He said that the approach will shift from self-isolation to testing in the next few weeks, and claimed the link “between infection and serious disease and death has been severed”.
The Prime Minister hit-back at Starmer with his customary response, saying the opposition leader doesn’t have a clear alternative, and saying he does not support “the progress being made” on 19 July.
Starmer has been criticised for failing to articulate a significantly different approach to the government’s, although he did offer a few points of difference today.
He said Labour would retain “base line protections” such as masks in confined spaces, improving ventilation and ensuring that the Test and Trace system is effective.
Starmer accused the Prime Minister of “coming up with a plan that hasn’t been thought through”.
He said: “We all want restrictions lifted, we want to get back to normal, but we’ve been here too many times before. Isn’t it the case that once again, instead of a careful and controlled approach we are heading for a summer of chaos and confusion?”
‘This is PMQs and the Prime Minister answers questions’
The Prime Minister was admonished on two occasions today by the Speaker for failing to answer questions and firing questions at the opposition leader instead.
After Johnson pushed back on the opposition leader’s fifth question with a question of his own, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said, “once again, this is PMQs and the Prime Minister answers questions”.
This marks the sixth PMQs of 18 since January in which the speaker has had to intervene to prompt Johnson to answer questions.