Tories won’t start wearing masks in Commons because they ‘know each other’, Jacob Rees-Mogg says

No 10 refuses to say whether Boris Johnson will start wearing one – despite Sajid Javid’s recommendation

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 21 October 2021 20:02
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Tories won’t wear masks in Commons because they ‘know each other’, Rees-Mogg says

Tory MPs will continue to refuse to wear masks in the Commons chamber because they “know each other”, a defiant Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, bowed to pressure for Conservative MPs to change their much-criticised stance – as he warned of tougher Covid restrictions if the public’s behaviour does not change.

But, just hours later, Mr Rees-Mogg told MPs: “The advice on crowded spaces is crowded spaces with people that you don’t know – we on this side know each other.”

The Commons leader 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.”

The comments came as Downing Street refused to say whether Boris Johnson would follow his own health secretary’s advice by wearing a face covering.

No 10 was blindsided by Mr Javid’s shift at Wednesday’s press conference – given the health secretary has previously declined to wear a mask himself.

Faced with accusations of hypocrisy after urging the public to wear masks in crowded spaces, Mr Javid conceded: “I think that’s a very fair point.”

But ducking the question of whether Mr Johnson would wear them, his spokesperson echoed Mr Rees-Mogg in telling journalists: “It remains the case that it’s a matter of personal judgement for all individuals on wearing a mask.

“We have very clear guidance, which sets out that people are recommended to wear face coverings in crowded, enclosed spaces where they come into contact with people they do not normally meet.”

The spokesperson stepped up the government’s war of words with NHS bosses and doctors’ leaders, again denying that the pressure on the health service requires an immediate shift to plan B.

The British Medical Association has joined the NHS Confederation in insisting that the restrictions – mask-wearing, vaccination to enter crowded venues, and working from home – are needed immediately.

There are currently 95,000 hospital beds in the NHS, of which only 7,000 are occupied by Covid patients, while around 6,000 are available, No 10 said.

The spokesperson also described a report that a plan C is being prepared – to reintroduce limits on household mixing, if necessary – as “not accurate”.

Neither Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, nor chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has “formally” advised a move to plan B, the spokesperson said.

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