The UK’s vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said he’s confident that legal restrictions to curb the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus will be lifted in a week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce his final decision on Monday on whether or not the fourth step of his road map to reopen the country will proceed on July 19 as planned.
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Zahawi said he’s “confident that we can proceed to step four,” adding that it’s “important” to “remain cautious and careful.”
Johnson has previously said that legal requirements such as social distancing and mask-wearing will be scrapped in step four and replaced with guidance that will “suggest where you might choose to do so.”
Zahawi told Sky News that the new guidelines will tell people they are “expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces.”
It comes as Health Secretary Sajid Javid told The Sunday Telegraph anyone who would not wear a mask in an enclosed space was “just being irresponsible.”
But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Given Sajid Javid now considers it irresponsible to not wear masks then it would be equally irresponsible for his government to carry on with the plan to lift mask requirements while infections are heading to 100,000 a day.”
In Wales, face coverings are to remain compulsory on public transport, and shadow education secretary Kate Green said she understood Labour’s mayors would also mandate them where they had control over public transport such as the trams in Manchester and the Tube in London.
She told Sky News: “I hope they will and I believe, I think I’m right in saying, that Andy [Burnham] has already indicated that here in Manchester, that’s what he will do.”
A retail industry boss on Tuesday warned that retail staff risk an increase in abuse and violence if the government doesn’t clearly communicate what’s legal and what’s guidance.
MP Mark Harper, chair of the COVID Recovery Group—a group of Tory MPs who are skeptical about COVID-19 lockdown measures—has previously warned that even though government guidelines are not legal restrictions, it will affect businesses as much as legal restrictions do because insurance policies will give guidance the effect of legal restrictions.
From step four, all businesses, including nightclubs, will be allowed to reopen from July 19; it’ll “no longer be necessary” for the government to instruct people to work from home; and legal restrictions on the number of people meeting each other, visiting care homes, or attending concerts, theaters, and sports events will be lifted.
There will be no mandatory domestic COVID certificates, but businesses and events can choose to require them.
Johnson has said the government will “do everything possible to avoid reimposing restrictions with all the costs that they bring.”
Ministers have not ruled out the possibility of reimposing lockdowns in the future.
Javid told MPs that the government will be keeping in place contengency measures, for local authorities in particular, at least until the end of September, in case there are local outbreaks.
PA contributed to this report.