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Sajid Javid Says Tory MPs Don't Need Masks In The Commons Because 'They're Not Strangers'

front bench

2 min read

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has defended the swathes of Conservative MPs who have been pictured not wearing face masks in the House of Commons, insisting "they're not strangers."

The government is under pressure to explain why dozens of Tory MPs are deciding not to wear face coverings in the Commons, which is now back to full capacity, when the general public is advised to wear them when meeting people they don't usually see in crowded places.

In an interview with Sky News Javid used the same logic to defend Cabinet ministers who were pictured last week not wearing masks when they met in person for the first time since the pandemic began.

"What we said was people should consider wearing masks in crowded places when they are with strangers, with people they're not normally spending time with," the Health Secretary said.

Asked the same question in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Javid said wearing masks was just one of a "suite" of measures that people can use to be safe, others being getting vaccinated and regularly taking tests.

He dodged host Nick Robinson's question of whether he would advise the thousands of people who attend Conservative party conference in Manchester early next month to wear face coverings.

“I’m sure many of them will naturally chose to wear masks if they are meeting with strangers," he said, "but also many will be vaccinated and many will also be taking tests."

Javid was speaking after the government on Tuesday revealed its plan for handling the coronavirus this winter when the colder weather will give the illness more of an advantage.

Ministers hope continuing to roll out the vaccine and administering booster shots to the over 50s and most vulnerable, as well regular testing, border control, and encouraging hand washing and mask wearing, will be enough to avoid a rapid surge of cases in the coming months.

However, the government has a "Plan B" if the pressure on the NHS becomes "unsustainable."

This includes legally mandating face coverings in some settings, with which settings exactly decided closer to the time, and potentially introducing vaccine passports.

Vaccine certification would be introduced for all nightclubs, and "indoor, crowded settings" with 500 or more attendees, such as music venues.

They would also be required in other for outdoor events with 4,000 or more visitors, such as festivals while any event with 10,000 or more attendees, including large sports and music venues would be required to implement the certification system.

Working from home where possible could also become mandatory "for a limited time if that is supported by the data."

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