Boris Johnson refuses to commit to wearing mask in Parliament

PM also insists ‘absolutely nothing to indicate’ another winter lockdown

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Friday 22 October 2021 16:02
Boris Johnson refuses to commit to wearing mask in Parliament

Boris Johnson has refused to commit to wearing a mask in the Commons — just days after Sajid Javid said public figures should “set an example”.

The prime minister also insisted that “at the moment we see absolutely nothing to indicate” that another winter lockdown was on the cards, despite infections passing 50,000 yesterday for the first time in three months.

Asked at a vaccine centre whether he will be “leading by example” and wearing a mask in the Commons, Mr Johnson sidestepped the question and said there were “lots of steps that we need to take to continue to follow the guidance”.

“So commonsensical things - washing your hands, wearing a mask in confined spaces where you don’t normally meet other people ...where you are meeting people that you don’t normally meet I should say,” he added.

“That’s sensible. But the key message for today is for all people, over 50s, think about getting your booster jab.”

Questioned at a Covid briefing at No 10 earlier this week, Mr Javid was pressed on Conservative MPs seen without face masks in the chamber, as it was suggested this could leave members of the government open to allegations they were not practicing what they preach.

“I think that’s a very fair point,” the cabinet minister said, adding that ministers and health leaders “have all got our role to play in this”.

“We also have a role to play to set an example as private individuals as well, I think that’s a very fair point and I’m sure a lot of people will have heard you,” he said.

Mr Johnson’s comments on Friday, however, appeared to endorse those of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, who said the advice on crowded spaces was “crowded spaces with people that you don’t know — we on this side know each other.”

The senior Conservative suggested MPs from other parties did not like “mixing”, adding: “We on this side have a more convivial, fraternal spirit – and are therefore following the guidance of Her Majesty’s government.”

Earlier the health and social care minister Gillian Keegan also defended her colleagues not wearing masks in the chamber, telling Sky News that face coverings should not become a “sign of virtue” and were less important than vaccines and booster jabs.

Mr Johnson’s remarks on Friday came as the government faces escalating pressure to implement the backup “plan B” proposals to stem the spread of Covid infections, including mandatory face masks, vaccine passports in crowded spaces and advice to work from home.

While the prime minister said the country is seeing “high levels of infection”, he claimed they are not outside the parameters of what was predicted.

“But it’s very important that people do follow the guidance on general behaviour, on being cautious, on wearing masks in confined places where you’re meeting people you don’t normally meet,” he said.

“Wear a mask, wash hands, ventilation, all that kind of thing, but also get your booster jab, and that’s the key message that we want to get across.

“Our autumn and winter plan always predicted that cases would rise around about now and we’re certainly seeing that in the numbers.”

Asked whether a full lockdown with the order to “stay at home” and shops closing is out of the question this winter, the prime minister replied: “I’ve got to tell you at the moment that we see absolutely nothing to indicate that is on the cards at all”.

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