Mandatory face masks could return if Covid surges over autumn

Rules on wearing face masks indoors could be brought back in if Covid-19 cases begin to spiral.

Yesterday Boris Johnson was said to be preparing a ‘toolbox’ of contingency measures, including vaccine boosters and event passports.

The measures would be introduced to avoid another national lockdown should there be a new wave of the virus this autumn and winter.

According to reports, mandatory masks in indoor settings such as shops and restaurants, and on buses and trains, could be added to the mix.

Ministers are said to prefer this to reimposing social distancing which would have a more harmful effect on the economy, reports the Daily Telegraph.

All legal limits on social contact were removed on ‘Freedom Day’ this July, and the prime minister said the lifting of restrictions would be ‘irreversible’.

The PM is expected to stress that it is time to ‘learn to live with Covid forever’ when he sets out his approach next week.

An advertising blitz could encourage the most vulnerable to get a third Covid jab and a flu shot to try to stop hospitals being overwhelmed.

However, the Coronavirus Act 2020 – which gives the government emergency powers to impose more restrictions – will be renewed as a precaution and ministers have refused to rule out a winter lockdown as a last resort.

There were 6,831 people admitted to hospitals with Covid in the past week.

The pressures from Covid admissions has forced a trio of Cornish hospitals to suspend all routine and urgent operations.

But it’s still far below levels during the second wave in January when 39,254 were in hospital — the most since the pandemic began.

In Parliament, opposition MPs accused Conservatives of being ‘cavalier’ with the health of other parliamentarians because they have stopped wearing face masks in the Commons.

The SNP’s shadow Commons leader Pete Wishart warned there was an ‘increased risk’ from Covid in the chamber.

When the chamber was full at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, only a small number of Tory MPs including former PM Theresa May wore masks, while a majority of MPs on the opposition benches did.

While MPs are only encouraged to continue wearing masks following the easing of restrictions on July 19, it is compulsory for staff on the parliamentary estate to wear a covering.

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