Environment Secretary George Eustice has said that there will be “no legal compulsion" to wear face masks after England's coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
He added that he thought “a lot of people” would want to stop wearing masks.
The current date for the so-called “Freedom Day” is July 19, delayed from the originally-planned June 21 after a worrying surge in cases of the Coronavirus “Delta” variant.
As it currently stands, you must by law wear a mask or other face covering in a long list of settings including in shops and supermarkets, in most entertainment venues, and on public transport.
There’s a range of fines up to a maximum value of £6,400 for anyone failing to wear a mask without producing a valid reason why they should be exempt.
But speaking to Sky News today, Mr Eustice said the government wants "all of the legal requirements to do things to be taken away completely" from July 19.
"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," he said.
"But the objective of that final stage is to remove the legal requirement to do these things."
Mr Eustice said he would personally stop wearing a mask once he had been “told it's safe not to,” adding “I want to get back to normal.”
"I think a lot of people will want to shed those masks.
"But while it's contributing to controlling the pandemic, yes I will wear my mask like everybody else and do my bit."
At present coronavirus cases – in particular the Delta Variant – are rising sharply across the country. As of 9am on Wednesday, official figures say there have been 16,135 confirmed new cases across the UK.
That marks the highest single-day total since February 6.
However vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi says the country is still on course to open up fully on July 19: “I am confident that we will have 66% of the adult population with the protection of two jabs by that date that the prime minister has set us,” he said.
Nobel prize-winning biologist Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan maintains that face masks should be worn "whenever you are in crowded public spaces".
He says that there is considerable scientific evidence that masks protect the wearer and people around them, and warns the UK is "way behind" other countries when it comes to wearing them.
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