People will be urged by the Government to continue to carry face masks even after legal restrictions are lifted from July 19, The Telegraph understands.
Wearing face coverings will no longer be compulsory but the public and businesses will be urged to apply “common sense” and consider using them in enclosed spaces.
The public will also be warned that some shops, restaurants or public transport will decide to continue to require them.
“We will still be encouraging people that it is probably sensible to wear a mask in a busy enclosed space,” said a source. “Although it is not legally required, it doesn’t mean people should not strongly consider doing it.
“You don’t have to wear them but if shops, pubs or restaurants demand that you do, we will advise people to be mindful of that and stick to it because it is their premises.”
Hospitality chiefs said masks, table service and the rule of six would continue in some venues after July 19, as Covid risk assessments, enforced by councils, are left to individual businesses.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, an industry body, said: “There’s going to be customers who are expecting everything to fall away and there’s going to be places that they won’t be able to do that.”
People wearing face masks at Oxford Circus Underground station
She expected most pubs would remove the requirement to wear masks, especially if customers are allowed to stand at the bar, but other businesses would be within their rights to enforce their use with more reticent customers.
“If you do feel confident, you’re very happy to go to a pub that is crowded, it’s showing football and people are standing up, and if you are a more reticent consumer then you’re going to look for ones where it’s table service,” Ms Nicholls said. “You’ll have that sort of made apparent through a lot of customer websites.”
She also warned some local councils could try to force hospitality businesses to be more strict with the rules.
“I think there might be a temptation of local authorities, that needs to be resisted, to put in place actual fixed regulations or rules that are more restrictive than they need to be,” she said.
Andy Byford, the commissioner of Transport for London, warned passengers could still be required to wear masks on the Tube.
“If Government advice is to drop masks, we will still take into account what our customers have said,” he said. “What our customers have said is that they want to see a clean, safe, orderly environment.”
Work from home rule
The work from home rule is set to be relaxed, as businesses said city centres must be allowed to “buzz again.”
Ministers on the Cabinet’s Covid O committee will meet on Monday to consider proposals to soften the guidance which currently states that “everyone who can work from home must do so.”
They are expected to back a change in the advice although it is thought unlikely they will repeat last Summer’s message when commuters were encouraged to return to work.
“You cannot lift the requirements for masks and social distancing and then say don’t go back to work,” said a Government source.
“Those changes will make it easier for offices to become Covid-secure. It means workers will not be crammed as close together as they were but employers can get staff back to work because they don’t have to obey X, Y, Z rules anymore.”
Ministers hailed the move as “personal responsibility” replacing state rules with employers urged to work with their staff on a safe return to work.
Companies could be encouraged to continue to tell their employees to wear face masks, regularly use hand sanitisers and test employees for Covid. Some firms, including supermarket chain Asda, have said they will continue to allow flexible working for office-based staff.
It came as 50 business leaders including BT, Capita, Heathrow and Gatwick chief executives urged ministers to end working from home as the default position to "set the country clearly on the path to recovery" by encouraging people to return to the office.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce that the Government’s “one metre plus” social distancing rule will be scrapped from July 19 as well as the rule of six indoors and limits of 30 for gatherings outside. Businesses such as nightclubs will also be allowed to open from Freedom Day.
The social distancing rules are the bane of the entertainment industry because it restricts the number of people who can visit restaurants, pubs, theatres and cinemas at any given time.
Many theatres have stayed closed, even though they are already legally allowed to open, because the restricted capacity makes it impossible to break even financially. Sports venues are also subject to the rules, restricting the number of people in crowds.
Some train companies have introduced mandatory reservations on their services to limit how many travellers can be on each service, while offices have introduced rotas to reduce the number of employees in the building at any one time.
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Social distancing will end and be replaced by other forms of mitigation to prevent the spread of the virus. A source said the Government’s approach will centre on three pillars: hygiene, ventilation and sanitation.
Nightclubs could be encouraged to use mechanical ventilation systems to maintain a flow of air on dancefloors, where revellers will mix in close quarters. Venues may also be allowed to require Covid testing for customers but plans for domestic vaccine passports have been shelved.
The requirement to scan a QR code when entering a bar, restaurant, hairdresser, gym, museum or other venues is also expected to be dropped although the venues will still be free to voluntarily do so to reassure customers and help track outbreaks.
The change in emphasis by the Government will shift responsibility for stopping the spread of Covid onto businesses, rather than customers.
The Prime Minister will also announce a further relaxation of restrictions on care home residents and visits. It follows last month’s decision to permit overnight stays as part of an easing of visiting restrictions.
Residents were previously only allowed to leave the care home for a visit if outdoors or for high-priority reasons, such as a dental or GP appointment, but can do so for more social reasons without having to isolate.