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Lincolnshire health chief urges caution on face masks and social distancing as Boris Johnson confirms relaxation of covid-19 restrictions on July 19

Lincolnshire’s health bosses said that lifting COVID-19 restrictions on July 19 is a “window of opportunity,” but people should not bin their masks just yet.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was confident enough to go ahead with relaxing the majority of coronavirus restrictions later this month.

Lincolnshire County Council’s assistant director of public health, Andy Fox, explained everyone wanted to see the legal requirements on masks lifted, and that the decision was all about timing.

Businesses may still ask customers to wear facemasks to help to stop the spread of coronavirus after July 19
Businesses may still ask customers to wear facemasks to help to stop the spread of coronavirus after July 19

“The government have identified this window of opportunity now, where they think lifting the restrictions now will have a better effect than lifting restrictions a little bit later," said Mr Fox.

“But there is some risk to that because we are wearing masks, particularly indoors in pubs, crowded environments with strangers around, and if that does have a good effect on keeping our transmission levels down, then that is going to increase the risk.

“We’re not going to know ahead of time unfortunately for sure which way that’s going to go.”

He hoped that lifting restrictions over summer at least would help the situation and get people outdoors.

As part of the rules, the burden of wearing masks and taking part in social distancing will be placed on the public, instead of government rules.

Shops, other businesses and public transport operators have been told they will have to make their own decisions whether to allow masks — meaning they could still make it a requirement.

On Monday, Ryanair confirmed masks would still be needed on their flights.

England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said he would continue to wear face coverings in crowded indoor spaces when required to by an authority, or to make someone else feel comfortable.

Mr Fox said he would also follow that advice.

“We’ll keep our face coverings in the drawer, in the door in the car and one in our pocket as we go out and always be prepared," he added.

“I would say definitely don’t put your masks in the bin. We’ve seen the Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer making it clear that, although this won’t be a matter for law, it will still be a recommendation, especially in indoor spaces where there’ll be strangers mixing, on public transport, in all the areas essentially where we got used to wearing face coverings.

“That will protect other people primarily — that’s what it’s about, and indeed it reassures other people as well.”

This was the same for other social distancing rules where possible going forward.

“The virus will still be here post-July 19, in fact it will still very likely be increasing sharply, so we’ll see big rates of transmission, especially among the less vaccinated.”

He said getting a jab was the number one method of protection, but added: “There is still this virus around, a dangerous disease that with a strong vaccine now the vast majority of very vulnerable people are protected, but there will always be some risk, so be cautious.”

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