Covid UK: ‘Concerns’ about new variant will make more people wear masks, says Sajid Javid

Fewer people have been wearing masks on the Tube – despite it remaining mandatory (Picture: Shutterstock)

People will comply with new mask wearing rules because they are ‘concerned’ about the emergence of a potentially dangerous new Covid variant, Sajid Javid has said.

The health secretary has confirmed face coverings will be made compulsory again in shops and on public transport from Tuesday.

Masks have been recommended, not legally required, in crowded settings in England over the summer and compliance has dropped dramatically as a result.

But Mr Javid said he is confident more will follow the new rules, given the threat of the super mutant Omicron strain.

Many shoppers ditched their masks after they were no longer legally required (Picture: PA)

He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme the emergence of the variant which can evade vaccines has forced people to start to taking things ‘more seriously’ again.

Mr Phillips pressed the health secretary on whether people will follow the rules as he cited stats which he said showed around a third of passengers are not wearing masks on London’s Tube and bus network, despite it remaining a condition of carriage.

Mr Javid responded: ‘Over the last few days, and of course this has been very fast moving, but people have seen and been able to understand the concerns around this new variant.

‘They will be concerned not just for themselves but for their friends and family and want to know the Government is taking proportionate action.

Sajid Javid has announced new rules to deal with the growing threat from a new Covid variant (Picture: PA)

‘I think that will encourage people in any way to listen and think about the new measures and take them very seriously.’

Confirming the start date for the new rules, Mr Javid said he hoped to be able to remove restrictions again in three weeks time.

He added: ‘But I do think in terms of making progress, we want life to go back towards normal, but at this point in time, given what we know about this variant, and the expert advice that has been received, I think it is right to take some proportionate and balanced action.’

There have been calls for mask wearing rules to be extended to other settings as well, including pubs and restaurants.

But Mr Javid said the new rules are ‘proportionate’ and the ‘right level of response.’

Labour’s Lisa Nandy said her party supports the reintroduction of face coverings but she wants to see the scientific evidence which may show the Government needs to go further.

‘We don’t think the Government has been getting the balance right up to now’, she told Sky.

‘That’s why we support the measures to bring in greater use of masks, mandatory masks in some settings, and we’ll be asking questions about whether the scientific basis for that suggests that that needs to go further.’

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