Britons are expected to work from home and wear masks after July 19
Sir Ian Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative Party, said Zahawi’s assurances that there would be an “expectation” that people would continue to cover their mouths and noses in some circumstances clouded the uncertainty.
He warned that the move ran the risk of “softening things up” on the so-called Freedom Day, adding that it could create confusion and inflame public feuds between heroes and opponents of the masks.
Alleging ministers bowed to pressure from scientists, he said the government should require the wearing of masks by law, allow the House of Commons to vote on the measure, or leave it a matter of choice free from “unclear” guidance.
Liam Fox, a former Cabinet minister, has called on Mr Johnson to justify the directive to continue wearing masks by publishing scientific data about the protection that face coverings offer.
“At some point, we have to get back to the people who are exercising their personal responsibility… If the mask is expected to be worn, give us the data,” he said.
Labor has also leveled criticism at the government over the policy, but has called for the wearing of masks to remain mandatory by law while Covid cases continue to rise.
The government is set to publish new guidance on public transportation, which is expected to include advice on face masks. Ministers will stop issuing a specific document on face coverings, however, it is understood.
A British government source denied on Sunday night that Mr. Zahawi’s intervention marked a marked shift in the government’s stance on face masks. “There hasn’t been a massive change in reality,” added the source, who insisted his comments were in line with Johnson’s.
While guidance to ‘work from home’ will also be lifted in step four of the roadmap, Dr Susan Hopkins from Public Health England (PHE) has called on people to continue to follow the advice after 19 July.
“If you’re able to do your job effectively from home, I think in the next four to six weeks, as there’s a spike in cases, we have to do everything we can to do that,” she told Times Radio.
“Then we must continue to look and see and return with caution to the office over the coming weeks, once we start to see a decline in the number of cases,” she added.
Scientific modeling suggests that COVID-19 cases are not due to start declining until mid-August.
Business groups have asked the government for clarification in the wake of Dr. Hopkins’ comments.
“Business leaders are not public health experts and are not expected to know how best to act when confusing and sometimes conflicting information comes from official sources,” said Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce.
She added that the government “should not waste time putting in place crystal clear guidelines” for businesses on how to help limit the spread of the virus.
Ms. Essex said the staffing shortage is caused by The current rules of self-isolation, Which could force the entire team to stay home for 10 days if one member tests positive for Covid, is likely to see many companies take a “cautious approach” to returning to the workplace from July 19.
Mike Cherry, national president of the Small Business Federation, also called for clarification to employers and employees. “It is the responsibility of the government to prevent confusion and establish a clear and consistent vision,” he said.