Sajid Javid has said he plans to carry a mask “for the foreseeable future” after the Government announced their use would become voluntary at the next stage of the road map.
The Health Secretary said it was a “responsible thing for anyone to do” as he confirmed he would continue to wear a face covering in certain situations in public.
The legal requirement to wear face masks will be lifted in England on “freedom day” – expected on July 19 – although guidance will suggest people might still choose to do so in crowded places.
Experts remained divided on the issue, but the Health Secretary said it marks a move towards individuals exercising personal responsibility rather than laws regulating how they live their lives during the pandemic.
Mr Javid told Sky News: “For the foreseeable future I will be carrying a face mask with me, I think that’s a very responsible thing for anyone to do. As I have said, the pandemic is not over.
“If I’m in a crowded or enclosed space, I will wear a face mask. In fact I will wear one if I was next to someone or near someone that felt uncomfortable with others not wearing face masks.
“And that’s what I mean by personality responsibility.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would wear a face covering in crowded places and as a matter of courtesy, when he announced the plans at a press conference on Monday evening.
But he added that in situations such as sitting alone in a train carriage, “people should be entitled to exercise some discretion”.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also pledged to wear face masks in certain situations.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said on Tuesday this was the right approach from the Government’s top scientists.
He told Times Radio Breakfast: “The emphasis from the chief medical officer and the Government chief scientific adviser was to assess your environment.
“They both said they’re going to be wearing masks in many circumstances, as will I.”