Two-thirds of the public plan to wear face masks in shops and on public transport after the legal requirement ends on Monday, a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed.
It found that 64 per cent of people in Great Britain plan to cover their faces, as well as 60 per cent saying that they plan to avoid crowded places.
More than half of adults said that they were worried about the plan to remove legal restrictions, with scientists saying that “confusing messaging” about opening up meant that people were taking matters into their own hands.
On Monday, Boris Johnson rowed back the Government’s previous insistence that all restrictions against coronavirus would be dropped when England reopened, with face masks being worn “in crowded and enclosed spaces”.
While it is no longer mandatory to wear face coverings, the Prime Minister said that it will be left up to individual businesses to decide their policy.
Sadiq Khan, Labour’s London Mayor, earlier this week challenged official policy on compulsory masks by making face coverings a “condition of carriage” on all public transport in London.
Covid rules from July 19
Customers and traders in London’s historic Borough Market will also have to continue wearing face masks, despite the Government easing restrictions.
Outside of the capital, the Queen’s Royal Sandringham Estate in Norfolk will continue to ask visitors and staff to wear face coverings.
Following Mr Johnson’s announcement earlier in the week that he expected a “gradual return to work over the summer,” Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, KPMG and Santander have all told staff to wear face masks when they return to the office on Monday.
KPMG said that the firm plans to introduce a “four-day fortnight” hybrid working policy where employees will spend four days in the office and the rest of the fortnight at home or at client sites.
The company added that it will “continue to encourage” its staff to wear masks in its offices and told employees to “remain respectful” of others’ personal space.
Staff who do enter KPMG’s offices or a client site will still need to check in via the firm’s "UK Return App", which involves declaring that they do not have Covid symptoms.
PwC, one of the other Big Four accountancy firms, said it was asking staff to keep wearing masks in lifts.
Kevin Ellis, the PwC chairman and senior partner, said: “It will be important that we … respect personal choices as we all gradually adapt to being in our offices together more regularly, as part of our new blended way of working.”
A Goldman Sachs spokesperson said the US investment bank would require staff to wear masks in their London office “when not at their desk”.
He also confirmed that the bank would not require staff to be vaccinated before returning to the office, with the firm hoping that 70 per cent of its UK staff will return to the office in the coming weeks.
JP Morgan will also still require its bankers to wear face masks in communal spaces and while moving around its buildings.
EY will require staff to wear masks in its offices, but not when they’re seated.
According to the ONS, among working adults, 30 per cent plan to work from home and that the proportion of people working remotely has been declining since March 2021 as restrictions have eased.
Dr Tom Wingfield, a senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant physician at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: “The ONS survey data shows that the UK public is aware of the ongoing risk of transmission of Covid-19, especially in indoor and/or crowded settings such as public transport or shops.
“The UK public has lived with Covid-19 for over a year and – despite the government’s plans to lift the legal requirement for mask-wearing and some confusing messaging and terminology around ‘freedom day’ – many people now rightly feel equipped with sufficient knowledge about Covid-19 to take public health matters into their own hands.”