The Prime Minister has signed off plans to end the legal requirement to wear masks as of July 19th, according to the Telegraph, saying that the link between COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations has been broken.
Mr Johnson is expected to lay out a blueprint for how England will live with the virus, as ministers prepare to replace swathes of legal restrictions with a call for “common sense” and “personal responsibility”.
Announcing the changes this week, an increasingly bullish Mr Johnson is expected to cite recent data and modelling to declare that, while infection rates will rise as restrictions are eased, the successful roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines means that the numbers of hospitalisations and deaths are no longer rising at the same scale as before.
The latest data are believed to have given the Prime Minister the confidence that the legal requirement to wear face masks is among measures that can be lifted without the risk of the NHS coming under “unsustainable pressure”.
If true, this is a welcome move from the Prime Minister, who continues to come under pressure from various quarters to keep restrictions in place.
Exactly what life will look like after July 19th, and what guidance will remain in place that becomes essentially mandatory once lawyers and insurers get involved, remains to be seen. There are also questions about the future of international travel, which is sliding fast towards a system of privileges for the elite and preferential treatment for the vaccinated with no clear end point in sight. Then there is the uncertainty of what may happen come autumn and winter now that lockdowns have been established as an acceptable tool of infection control and healthcare management.
But for now it seems that things are finally moving in the right direction, with a rare show of spine from the once outspoken libertarian in Number 10. Let’s hope it stays that way.