The Health Secretary urged people to consider wearing a mask in busy places but did not make them compulsory again. His comments came just hours after ministers gathered in the Commons for PMQs
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Sajid Javid has said the public should wear a face mask to “think about others around them” in some enclosed settings just hours after Tory MPs packed into the House of Commons without them.
The Health Secretary, who did not wear a face mask in the Commons today, urged people to consider wearing a mask in busy places such as public transport but did not make them compulsory again.
At tonight’s press conference, he said: “There are many things we can all do, like wearing face coverings in crowded or close spaces.”
His comments came just hours after ministers gathered in the Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) and most Tory MPs did not wear a face mask when sitting next to others.
Mr Javid added that the Government is not currently planning to implement its Plan B for tackling coronavirus, adding that ministers do not believe the pressures on the NHS are unsustainable at the moment.
Responding to questions, he said: “You said, am I saying if we don’t do our bit, get vaccinated, all those behavioural changes we can make, that we are more likely to face restrictions as we head into winter – then I am saying that.
“I think we’ve been really clear that we’ve all got a role to play.
“If not enough people get their booster jabs, if not enough of those people who were eligible for the original offer – the 5million that remain unvaccinated – if they don’t come forward.
“If people don’t wear masks when they really should in a really crowded place with lots of people they don’t normally hang out with.
“If they’re not washing their hands and stuff – it’s going to hit us all. and it would of course make it more likely we’re going to have more restrictions.
“Now we want to avoid those, we’ve set out what those restrictions might look like, we’ve set out the Plan B restrictions for example, and we all want to avoid those.”
In his first-ever Downing Street press conference, Sajid Javid repeated his warning that Covid-19 cases could reach 100,000 a day as the country enters a challenging winter period.
He said the UK was seeing “greater pressure” on the NHS but said the Government will “do what it takes to make sure that this pressure doesn’t become unsustainable and that we don’t allow the NHS to become overwhelmed.”
He said deaths “remain mercifully low” at the moment, even though in the past week almost a thousand people died after contracting the disease.
He added: “We’ve always known that the winter months would pose the greatest threat to our road to recovery.”
He added: “Thanks to the vaccination programme, the link between hospitalisations and deaths has significantly weakened, but it’s not broken.
“So we must all remember that this virus will be with us for the long term and remains a threat to our loved ones, and a threat to the progress that we’ve made in getting our nation closer to normal life.”
The latest Government figures show that a further 179 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday.
As of 9am on Wednesday, there have been a further 49,139 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.
Hospital admissions stand at 868 on average per day over the last seven days, up from 780 a week earlier, a rise of 11 per cent.
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Earlier, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents health bodies, warned that “we risk stumbling into a winter crisis” unless measures such as face masks and vaccine passports – the Government’s “Plan B” for the coming months – are introduced in England.
He called for ministers to come up with a “Plan C” of even tougher restrictions if those measures are insufficient to address pressure on the health service.
A behavioural expert has predicted that if the Government made face masks compulsory again, most people in England would follow the rule.
Professor Linda Bauld said the nation is “the outlier” in the UK when it comes to coronavirus safety measures, as many aspects included in the Westminster Government’s Plan B are already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The behavioural scientist, who is Professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said the main issue is communication and added that making something mandatory is a “big shift” which sends a message that people need to comply.
Under the Government’s current Plan A strategy, people in England are advised to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed settings but it is not a legal requirement.
Prof Bauld said it is “striking and very unfortunate” that most Conservative MPs sit in the House of Commons without masks, compared with those on the opposition benches who have generally been seen to wear face coverings.
She said: “Leaders need to lead by example and with these (coronavirus case) numbers and the concerns we have, absolutely, I think politicians from all parties should be wearing a face covering when they’re in the chamber, when they can’t distance etc.
“It’s social norms that drive these behaviours. When you mandate something, it’s a big shift, it sends a message that it’s expected and therefore you need to comply unless there’s an exception.”
She added: “I think there are some people who feel quite comfortable still wearing one and don’t care what anybody else thinks, but there are others who do (care about others’ opinions), and so, therefore, I think just saying we recommend it but it’s not required isn’t strong enough. It just doesn’t really work.”