Brexit Covid divide sees Leave voters more likely to ditch masks

The Brexit mask divide: Leave voters more likely to ditch face coverings when laws are axed as Boris Johnson faces backlash over plans to make them voluntary – and top Sage expert says shops should be allowed to bar people who refuse to cover up

  • More Brexiteers than Remainers plan to stop wearing masks after July 19
  • But a significant majority of both want mask laws to remain for public transport
  • Sage expert said that shops should refuse to serve people who don’t cover up

Britain has a new Brexit divide with Leave voters more willing than Remainers to ditch their masks when the laws demanding their use are scrapped.

More Brexiteers said they planned to stop wearing a face covering after July 19 than said they would continue to voluntarily cover up, by 46 to 41 per cent, YouGov found.

By contrast, some 59 per cent of Remainers said they planned to continue to wear masks to lower the risk that they would spread disease to others. 

However, the pollsters also found that there was a significant majority among both Leave and Remain voters for keeping rules demanding masks be worn on public transport. 

It came as Boris Johnson was embroiled in a huge row over his decision to axe all facemask laws and make them optional in all but some medical situations.

A senior scientist from the Government’s Sage advisory group said today that shops and other businesses should be allowed to bar people who refuse to cover up if asked.

Professor Calum Semple told Times Radio: ‘There’s no reason why businesses which have made their own assessments cannot say actually ”If you come in here we still want you to wear a mask”.

‘They can’t mandate it, but neither are businesses mandated to have to serve you, so if you run a nail bar and you want the clients to wear a face mask, you simply say ”You have to wear a face mask if you want to get your nails done”.  

Professor Calum Semple told Times Radio: ‘There’s no reason why businesses which have made their own assessments cannot say actually ”If you come in here we still want you to wear a mask”.

‘It’s Freedom Day, NOT free-for-all day,’ says pub chain boss 

A major UK pub chain will still encourage masks, social distancing and table service to ‘avoid a scrum at the bar’ with its boss declaring today: ‘July 19 has been dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ but it really shouldn’t be free for all day’.

Boris Johnson announced yesterday that it will no longer be a legal requirement for pubs to require customers to order drinks at their tables 

But several pub businesses will continue this – meaning people will still not be able to go to the bar if an individual pub bans it – and keep many of the rules imposed since the pandemic began in March 2020 to protect staff and customers from Covid-19.

Clive Watson, chief executive of the City Pub Group, who run 45 pubs across England and Wales, said: ‘July 19 has been dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ but it really shouldn’t be free for all day’.

He says staff will be asked to wear masks with customers encouraged to do the same, and if they approach the bar to order they will be initially urged to do it at the table.

‘That’s a good example of some direct, personal, face-to-face contact for a good 40 minutes where you don’t want your staff breathing in what Joe Public is breathing on to you.

‘There’s no reason why many businesses can’t actually just say ‘Hang on a minute, in this setting we want you to wear a face mask’.

‘I don’t see why public transport companies couldn’t make the same assessment.’

 It came as Sajid Javid today admitted coronavirus cases could top 100,000 a day by August as the government pushes ahead with ‘Freedom Day’ – but insisted the ‘wall of protection’ from vaccines can hold.

The Health Secretary gave the grim figure as he insisted Boris Johnson is right to continue with the dramatic unlocking on July 19, saying the hospitalisations and deaths were what mattered.

Mr Javid said he would continue to wear a face covering in a crowded space or if he was with someone who felt uncomfortable about one not being worn, once restrictions are eased.

He told Sky News: ‘For the foreseeable future I will be carrying a face mask with me, I think that’s a very responsible thing for anyone to do.

‘As I have said, the pandemic is not over.

‘If I’m in a crowded or enclosed space, I will wear a face mask. In fact I will wear one if I was next to someone or near someone that felt uncomfortable with others not wearing face masks.

‘And that’s what I mean by personality responsibility.’

The PM was also given a boost this morning as ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson said he is ‘optimistic’ the ‘gamble’ of releasing restrictions will work – although he cautioned that cases could hit 200,000 a day and they might need to be reimposed if vaccines are slightly less effective than hoped and deaths surge.

As well as the threat of severe illness, that scale of infections could cause chaos as people are ‘pinged’ by test and trace and forced to self-isolate. 

However, in a round of interviews, Mr Javid revealed that he will be unveiling plans today to allow people who are double-jabbed to sidestep the isolation rules and do daily tests instead. Government insiders have raised doubts about whether the system can be in place for July 19.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is also due to set out proposals for scrapping school ‘bubble’ rules that have been causing huge numbers to stay away from classes.

Mr Javid said that by ‘Freedom Day’ he expects daily cases to reach 50,000 – nearly double the current level.

‘As we ease and go into the summer we expect them to rise significantly and they could go as high as 100,000 case numbers,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘We want to be very straightforward about this… but what matters more than anything is hospitalisation and death numbers. That is where the link has been severely weakened.’

Labour has criticised the Government’s plan as ‘reckless’ and called for ministers to maintain protections such as mask wearing. 

Shuttered business welcomed the opportunity to reopen but medics raised concerns of rising hospital admissions and charities representing the clinically vulnerable also warned of their heightened risk. 

A decision will be taken on Monday on whether to proceed with the proposals on July 19, but Mr Johnson has strongly signalled it would go ahead as planned.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘To throw off all protections at the same time when the infection rate is still going up is reckless.

‘We need a balanced approach, we need to keep key protections in place, including masks, including ventilation and crucially… proper payments to those who need to self isolate.’

British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was ‘incredibly concerning’ for Mr Johnson to ‘decide to go full steam’ despite warnings over rising hospitalisations and deaths.

He urged ministers to ensure the wearing of masks is compulsory ‘until the rampant spread of infection has been brought under control and more of the population are fully vaccinated’.

‘There is a clear disconnect with the actions the Government are planning to take and the data and views of the scientific community and medical profession,’ Dr Nagpaul said.

Professor Stephen Reicher, who advises the Government as part of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), warned there is a ‘very real risk prospect’ that by the end of July there could be nearly a million cases per week.

‘I really do fear that if we were to get up to those high numbers of infections there is a risk of causing huge damage primarily to young people because they’re the ones that aren’t vaccinated,’ he told Channel 4 News.

‘I think that’s a very big risk indeed, it’s not a risk I would take and I earnestly, I genuinely hope that I am wrong and it doesn’t happen but I wouldn’t be taking the risk.’

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