Prime Minister Boris Johnson says people in England will no longer be required by law to wear face masks in indoor public spaces and to keep at least 3 feet apart as soon as later this month, confirming plans to reopen society despite rising coronavirus cases.
Johnson confirmed Monday that legal sanctions will be replaced by individual “informed decisions” when the country moves to the final stage of its lockdown-lifting roadmap. He said that's scheduled to happen on July 19, although a final decision will come on July 12.
The change will mean people can throw away masks after months of enforced face-covering, though businesses and transit operators may still require them, and they will still be recommended in some enclosed spaces.
Britain has recorded more than 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Western Europe, and confirmed infections are rising due to the highly transmissible delta variant.
Public health officials say Britain’s robust vaccination program has weakened the link between infections and deaths, but not severed it entirely.
The government acknowledges that infections, hospitalizations and deaths will all rise once the remaining restrictions are lifted.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.