LONDON — Face masks are set to become a “personal choice” in England as the United Kingdom is easing coronavirus restrictions, said a UK minister.

“I do not particularly want to wear a mask; I do not think a lot of people enjoy doing it,” said Robert Jenrick, Housing Secretary, on June 4.

“We will be moving into a phase though, where there will be matters of personal choice, and so some members of society will want to do so for legitimate reasons, but it will be a different period where we as private citizens make these judgments rather than the government telling you what to do.”

The UK government is considering whether to lift all remaining restrictions on social contact on July 19. The government’s new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has signaled that he would like to ease coronavirus restrictions.

“We are on track for July 19, and we have to be honest with people about the fact that we cannot eliminate Covid,” said Javid.

“We also need to be clear that cases are going to rise significantly. I know many people will be cautious about the easing of restrictions- that is completely understandable. But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view. We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it- just as we already do with flu.”

Javid said that the rules that have had to put in place had caused a shocking rise in domestic violence and a terrible impact on so many people’s mental health.

“I know many people will feel cautious about the easing of restrictions – that’s completely understandable,” he tweeted. “But no date will ever be risk-free, so we have to take a broad and balanced view on the different risks to our society.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reviewing “very positive” data ahead of his decision on the next step in England’s coronavirus roadmap, said Jenrick.

Britain has reported another 24,248 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 4,903,434, according to official figures.

The country also recorded another 15 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 128,222. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

Despite the first nation globally to start the vaccination drive, the United Kingdom has witnessed one of the highest numbers of deaths and experienced a deadly second wave. It clamped down on international travel during the 2021 lockdown. 

However, on May 17, non-essential travel resumed in Scotland, England, and Wales.

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Amrita Das and Saptak Datta)

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