September 17, 2021

COVID-19: 'They're not strangers' - Javid defends maskless cabinet meeting after PM advised their use

September 15, 2021

The health secretary has defended the cabinet not wearing face coverings after Boris Johnson advised people to wear masks, saying they are "not strangers".

A photo of the crowded cabinet meeting, with nearly 40 ministers and staff, yesterday showed none of them wearing masks ahead of the prime minister laying out his winter plan, in which he said people should wear face masks in crowded spaces.

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this was "perfectly consistent" with that messaging. An open window could be seen in the room.

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He told Sky News: "Because what we said was people should consider wearing masks in crowded places when they are with strangers, with people they're not normally spending time with."

Asked whether MPs at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday should wear masks, following the advice, Mr Javid said: "They're not strangers."

He admitted people are influenced by others, but said: "Every individual should make the decision based on the advice they're given and the situation they find themselves in at the time."

The winter plan states: "Wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed settings where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet."

Mr Johnson also revealed on Tuesday there is a "plan B" for the winter in which face coverings would be made legally mandatory in certain settings, people would be asked to work from home and vaccine certificates would be necessary for nightclubs and at crowded events.

Shadow cabinet minister Jonathan Reynolds told Sky News he thought the government was being complacent.

He said: "My biggest take of yesterday was seeing the health secretary talk about how we might have to ask people wear masks in enclosed spaces, in the workplace, surrounded by Conservative MPs, none of them wearing a mask, just gives me the sense of the complacency that I feel is sometimes too great a feature of the government."

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