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    Face masks to become a personal choice in England, Jenrick says

    A security guard stands by the entrance to a Morrisons supermarket as a customer wearing a face mask enters the store on January 12, 2021 in London, United Kingdom.(Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

    The wearing of face coverings in England will become a personal choice and the data that will determine if lockdown restrictions can be lifted this month was looking “very positive”, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Sunday.

    “It will be a different period where we as private citizens make these judgments rather than the government telling you what to do,” Jenrick told Sky News.

    Legal lockdown restrictions are due to be removed on July 19 under the government’s roadmap and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out details about the final stage of easing in England in the coming days, Jenrick said.

    Johnson is expected to set out plans for the final step of easing Covid-19 lockdown in England today, including guidance on social distancing, face coverings and working from home.

    Asked if he would stop wearing a face mask if permitted, Jenrick said: “I will. I don’t particularly want to wear a mask, I don’t think a lot of people enjoy doing it, we will be moving into a phase though where these will be matters of personal choice.”

    Johnson had hoped to remove final restrictions in June but his plan was scuppered by rising coronavirus cases, driven largely by the more transmissible Delta variant.

    He said last week that although Britain’s vaccination programme had broken the link between infection and deaths, some precautions might have to remain beyond July 19.

    Jenrick on Sunday said the data was looking “very positive”.

    “It does seem as if we can now move forward and move to a much more permissive regime where we move away from many of those restrictions that have been so difficult for us,” he said.

    “We’re going to have to ensure that every adult gets double vaccinated, because that is the key to keeping the virus under control as we move into the autumn and the winter.”

    After imposing the most onerous restrictions in Britain’s peacetime history to battle the novel coronavirus, Johnson is preparing to lift most restrictions in England on July 19 with a final decision due on July 12.

    Data suggests that cases will continue to rise as restrictions are eased, the government said, but the link to hospitalisations and deaths has been weakened by the vaccination programme.

    People will learn to live with Covid as they do already with flu, Johnson is expected to say, meaning that hospitalisations, serious illness and deaths will continue but at a much lower level than before widespread vaccination.

    Britain has suffered the seventh highest global death toll from Covid-19, and Johnson has faced criticism for his decisions over the timing of each of England’s three lockdowns.

    But the take-up of vaccines in Britain has been strong, with 86 per cent of adults receiving a first dose and 64 per cent receiving two doses as of Sunday, government data shows.

    Johnson credited the success of the vaccination programme with helping England progress through the roadmap out of lockdown.

    “But I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks,” Johnson said in a statement released by his office.

    “As we begin to learn to live with this virus, we must all continue to carefully manage the risks from Covid and exercise judgement when going about our lives.”

    Cases of Covid-19 have risen in recent weeks, driven by the now-dominant Delta variant, and the final step of lockdown easing was delayed by four weeks to enable more people to be vaccinated.

    Data from Public Health England show that vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalisation from Delta.

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