A cabinet minister has told Sky News it would make “sense” for many people to carry on wearing masks even after lockdown rules are lifted.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland suggested continuing the practice would help curb the spread of the common cold.
He also said “caution has been the watchword” when it came to lifting coronavirus restrictions, and that 21 June remained the “at the earliest” date for scrapping all COVID-19 measures.
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It came after Downing Street said it was “still too early” to determine whether the Indian strain of coronavirus could delay the current roadmap timetable, although there had “not been any significant changes that currently suggest we need to change our course of action”.
Mr Buckland said: “I think that whatever the regulations might be, and clearly as we come out of this COVID period all of us want to see an end to the use of regulations so we can live our lives as we would want to live, there will be a certain sense I think for a lot of us to carry on wearing masks.
“I for one think if I have got a cold or a minor ailment I think wearing a mask is going to be the right thing to do because I don’t want to spread my cold to somebody else.”
He went on: “If I have got a runny nose and I am still able to get out there and work, I think wearing a mask is not a bad idea. We can reduce the spread of even the common cold.”
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Meanwhile, cases of the Indian variant in the UK have risen by more than 2,000 in a week, according to official figures.
Public Health England (PHE) said the latest weekly data showed there were 3,424 cases of the B1617.2 mutation – an increase of 2,111 on the previous seven-day period.
While most cases were concentrated in the North West – particularly Bolton – and London, PHE said it was seeing “clusters of cases” across the country.
Elsewhere, Boris Johnson has backed a new global surveillance network to detect emerging diseases, declaring the world “must never be caught unawares” by another pandemic.