Sajid Javid has urged the public to wear face masks in enclosed spaces to combat spiking Covid cases – just as he was challenged about whether Tory MPs are leading by example by avoiding coverings in the “packed” parliament.
In his first ever Downing Street press conference, the health secretary repeated his warning that infections could reach 100,000 a day as the country enters a challenging winter period.
He stressed that, aside from vaccinations, people can take other – now voluntary – measures such as meeting outdoors where possible, ensuring good ventilation, wearing masks in crowded spaces and taking lateral flow tests.
He said: “With winter soon upon us, these little steps make a big difference. And they’re more important now than they have ever been.”
Sajid Javid says people in enclosed spaces should "wear a face mask" and "think about those around them."
Meanwhile, on the Conservative benches. pic.twitter.com/T3ofYPPBF6
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) October 20, 2021
the health secretary wants you to wear masks in crowded indoors settings pic.twitter.com/fQuDI2SiR3
— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) October 20, 2021
But he was questioned about none of the MPs on the “completely packed” Tory benches wearing coverings in the Commons on Wednesday. Javid admitted it was “a very fair point” and politicians had a “role to play in setting an example”.
The law mandating face coverings was scrapped in July 19, under plans that lifted almost all Covid rules in England.
"Today, the benches were completely packed, nobody on the Conservative side was wearing a mask"
Journalist Sebastian Payne points out difference between MPs' actions and what they are telling the public
"That is a very fair point," says Sajid Javidhttps://t.co/9zSkhW3LeDpic.twitter.com/yV7Esrjbuk
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 20, 2021
In the same month, Javid said he would not wear a face mask on a quiet train even if there was a sign asking him to once restrictions are eased.
“If I was on crowded tube in London I would wear a mask,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“If I was on the West Coast mainline going up to my constituency and it’s late at night and there are about three people in the carriage, even if it said ‘we recommend a mask’, I wouldn’t wear a mask.”
Latest government figures show that a further 179 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday.
As of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 49,139 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.
Hospital admissions stand at 868 on average per day over the last seven days, up from 780 a week earlier, a rise of 11%.
Earlier, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents health bodies, warned “we risk stumbling into a winter crisis” unless measures such as face masks and vaccine passports – the government’s “Plan B” for the coming months – are introduced in England.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.