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Masks are here to stay in Scotland – even if Boris Johnson says they’re not needed

The Scottish government says there will still be a requirement to wear face coverings north of the border even if England, as expected, moves later this month to ease the rules around masks.

The comments come after Sunday papers reported that Boris Johnson, who is due to give an update this week on plans for unlocking in England, is set to scrap social distancing and mask-wearing requirements on so-called “Freedom Day”.

In a statement, the Scottish government says however that masks will still be needed in some situations.

“As the First Minister has set out, we will have to manage living with Covid 19 for some time to come, even when we are able to move beyond Level 0. There will still be some ongoing need for face coverings, for example on public transport and in retail.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish government says more guidance about the issue of face masks will be given by the end of the month.

Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick.

On Sunday, UK Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick appeared confirm the reports of an imminent easing of restrictions in England as he said the impact of the vaccine on preventing serious illness meant it was time to “roll back” the “difficult” restrictions that have been in place for the past 16 months.

Robert Jenrick told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It does look as if, thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, that we now have the scope to roll back those restrictions and return to normality as far as possible.”

Mr Jenrick said he hoped the UK could “move as one” when lifting pandemic restrictions but acknoledged the picture was different across the Union.

According to The Sunday Times, mask wearing will become voluntary in all settings in England and the one metre-plus rule in hospitality venues will end, meaning a return to drinking at the bar without the requirement for table service.

Mass events, including festivals, will also be allowed under the proposals for the final stage of the road map out of lockdown, the paper said.

Cabinet minister Mr Jenrick said that, although cases were rising, they had not translated into “serious illness and death”, allowing the UK Government to be “positive” about unlocking on July 19.

“It does feel as if we are now in the final furlong, in a period in which we can start to live with the virus and move on with our lives,” he said.

Mr Jenrick – who pledged to get rid of his face covering when permitted – said the “State won’t be telling you what to do” as ministers look to move from legal enforcement to personal choice, with people exercising their own judgment on whether or not to carry on wearing masks.

The onus instead will be on ensuring that “every adult gets fully vaccinated” to guard against rising hospital admissions and deaths, he told the Sky News programme Trevor Phillips On Sunday.

However, Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said it would “not necessarily (be) a bad thing” if people continued to wear masks in crowded spaces as “those habits to reduce infections are a good thing to keep”.

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