Many commuters have opted not to ditch their masks and crowded onto public transport as ‘Freedom Day’ arrives.
Plenty have been pictured continuing to wear the face coverings despite the controversial change in rules amid warnings the UK is headed for a ‘third wave’.
Face coverings have become a matter of personal choice after the government opted to end mandatory masking policies in England as restrictions eased on Monday.
Boris Johnson’s government has passed the decision to the public to continue wearing masks – or not – with businesses passed the buck to make their own rules.
Face masks are no longer mandatory in shops and on public transport as limits on gathering and work from home guidance ends.
That means many workers will be heading back into offices and workplaces today and are now able to make their own decision about whether they will wear masks on their journey.
Many Londoners were pictured at stations and on tubes this morning continuing to wear face masks as Transport for London (TfL) continued to require the coverings, despite the requirement no longer being law.
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Some people have medical reasons for not wearing masks and were exempt from wearing the coverings when they were mandated.
TfL, Manchester’s MetroLink trams, and shops including bookstore Waterstones, Uber, and major supermarkets, airports and airlines are among businesses and services continuing to require masks be worn.
However their stance is no longer backed by law as the July 19 changes end authorities’ powers to fine people for refusing to wear the coverings.
The government has faced criticism over its decision to end masking rules as the Delta variant cases soar even among double-jabbed people.
The Office for National Statistics today two-thirds of adults surveyed said they still plan to wear masks in shops and on public transport in England despite the rule changes.
Many northern Labour mayors including in Liverpool, West Yorkshire and Sheffield have joined to follow London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s lead in calling for a rethink on mandatory mask-wearing.
“We are still in a pandemic and we need to think in terms of collective safety rather than individual freedom or personal responsibility,” Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said.
Mr Khan urged Londoners to continue wearing masks on tubes and trains on Monday.
He tweeted: “A reminder that today won’t feel like ‘freedom day’ for everyone.
“Please continue to be mindful of those around you, and the things you can do to keep our city safe.”
Masks have been recommended by the World Health Organisation and were adopted in many countries as a way for people to protect others from the spread of the airborne virus.
The UK’s daily infection numbers were topping 50,000 a day nationwide last week ahead of the masking rules’ end, as Imperial College expert Professor Neil Ferguson warned on Sunday infections could soar to 200,000 a day after unlocking.
Vulnerable Brits including people with illnesses that leave them unable to get vaccines have hit out at the move.
Critics fear making masking a personal choice issue could see the UK mimic ugly clashes seen in the US as differences on masking rules became divided down political lines.
On the day the move was announced, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said he would continue to wear masks in crowded spaces and areas where social distancing was not possible.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid and other ministers said they would also continue to mask up in some settings.
Describing settings where he would personally feel comfortable ditching his mask, Mr Javid said he would take his off in empty train carriage.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi this morning told GB News he would continue to wear face masks in crowded places.
The PM was blasted last week when he was snapped being driven without a mask as he left Wembley Stadium after England’s Euro 2020 final.
Mr Johnson came in for a fresh round of criticism on Sunday as he and Chancellor Rishi Sunak initially planned to avoid isolating after the Health Secretary’s positive Covid tested.
However the pair, who are both in a workplace daily Covid testing pilot at Downing Street, made a screeching U-Turn after swift public backlash.