Boris Johnson has left open the door to Britons being urged to wear face masks until the end of the year.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister swerved a question about whether people would have to wait until 2022 to throw away their masks.

Highlighting instead the success of the vaccine rollout, he said: "We are in a far, far better position than we’ve been in probably at any previous point in this pandemic."

However, he stressed that the country should proceed in a "cautious way" to step four of his roadmap out of lockdown.

Mr Johnson said that, from July 19, he was able to "get rid of the legal restrictions, but the guidance has to remain in place, at least for the time being, I think".

From Monday, face masks will no longer be legally required on trains and in shops, but the Government has said it "recommends and expects" that they are still worn in crowded and enclosed spaces such as public transport.

Face masks poll

It emerged on Thursday that police will still wear face coverings after the National Police Chiefs’ Council wrote to all forces advising that existing Covid measures should be retained.

Martin Hewitt, the NPCC chairman, said: "The nature of policing means officers are often in close contact with members of the public, are dealing with vulnerable people and going into different homes. That’s why we will continue for now with our current infection control measures, like the use of face masks."

The guidance, is also aimed at preventing large numbers of officers falling sick or having to self-isolate.

A number of supermarkets and shops have also issued guidance on masks, with Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waterstones  asking customers to wear them. Asda, John Lewis, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl also announced that they would ask customers to continue to wear face coverings.

Ryanair and easyJet, along well as all Transport for London tubes, buses, trains and trams, have said passengers should continue to wear masks.

On Thursday, scientists said the third wave has "peaked" among unvaccinated people. The ZOE Covid study, run by King’s College London, estimates that there are 17,581 new daily symptomatic cases among the unvaccinated, down 22 per cent from the 22,638 of a week ago.

However, in vaccinated people the number of cases has increased 40 per cent week on week to 15,537.

Prof Tim Spector, who leads the study, said: "We are seeing the overall incidence rates plateau in the UK with an ‘R’ value of 1.0, which is good news. But the rate of decline may be slower this time, as many of the restrictions in place previously will end."