Boris Johnson will give the go-ahead to the final lifting of restrictions in England on 19 July but tell the public: “The plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.”
People will be urged to remain vigilant and be told they are “expected” to wear face masks in enclosed public places, despite the legal requirement being dropped.
In a marked change of tone reflecting the fact that cases and hospital admissions are still rising, the Prime Minister will say on Monday the long-awaited end of the roadmap is “tantalisingly close” but warn that the “global pandemic is not over yet”.
The change of language on face masks is particularly stark just a week after Mr Johnson said people could decide for themselves whether to carry on covering up on public transport and inside shops.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that people would be “frankly irresponsible” if they did not wear a mask in public indoor settings after 19 July, telling the Sunday Telegraph: “They’re not playing their role as a responsible citizen.”
And Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, made clear that despite the mandatory order to wear masks being dropped, there was an “expectation” that people should continue to do so.