Face masks have been mandatory in places like shops and on public transport since last July (Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
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Remaining Covid restrictions are set to be axed on July 19 – with face masks to become optional, a top Tory has said.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the country was on course to end all legal restrictions next month as Boris Johnson believes the data "looks good".
He said he plans to ditch his mask as soon as there is no "legal compulsion" to wear them – despite warnings from some experts that people may need to continue to wear face coverings in some settings.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also said it was his "strong expectation that remaining Covid rules would be scrapped on July 19.
No10 said "no final decisions" have been made on whether measures like masks and social distancing would be scrapped if the PM proceeds with the final stage of the roadmap.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said he would ditch his face mask as soon as the rules change
(Image: Getty Images)
Mr Johnson is expected to review the four-week delay to Freedom Day next week to see if restrictions can be lifted on July 5.
But Downing Street has previously said that this looks "unlikely" and focus is instead on the July 19 "terminus" date.
Mr Eustice told Sky News: “Well, what we want to do on July 19, and the Prime Minister said that the data looks good to be able to have that end, is to remove all of the legal restrictions.
"That's all of the legal requirements to do things, to be taken away completely.
"Now, whether there will still be some people who might choose to wear masks or whether it may be advisory in some settings, that's a separate matter.
"But the objective of that final stage is to remove the legal requirement to do these things."
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Asked if he would still wear a mask once restrictions end, Mr Eustice said: "I wouldn't, no. I have to be honest, once I'm told that it's safe not to, I want to get back to normal.
"I think a lot of people will want to shed those masks."
He said "the plan is" that on July 19 "the legal requirement to have a face mask is taken away" but indicated there may be certain settings where it would make sense to wear coverings – like the London Underground.
Mr Sunak said that it was his "strong expectation" that restrictions will be lifted on July 19.
Asked if he would stop wearing a mask as soon as it ceases to be a legal requirement, he told The Times CEO Summit: "Yes, as soon as possible.
"Things are looking good for July 19, as the Prime Minister said, and my strong expectation is we can lift these major restrictions then and get back to normal."
Downing Street said it was "entirely right to say we do want to remove as many restrictions as are safe to do so".
Boris Johnson is considering whether to press ahead with Freedom Day on July 19
(Image: Getty Images)
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Asked about Mr Eustice's comments, the PM's spokesman said: "We want to get back to as close normal as is possible post Step 4.
"However no final decisions have been taken about what measures are required."
Asked if Mr Johnson hoped to "bin" his own face mask, the spokesman said: "That would depend. The Prime Minister, should there be any requirement for it in future, would be happy to comply with them.
"But, as I say, no decisions have been taken on what will or will not be required in future."
Masks rules are among the issues being looked at in the Government's social distancing review, which is due to be published ahead of the final easing of restrictions.
Officials are also considering working from home guidance and the 'one metre plus' social distancing rule.