People in some settings in England will continue to be asked to wear masks despite the legal requirement for face coverings coming to an end.
From Thursday, face coverings will no longer be required by law as the Government returns to plan A measures.
The end of plan B restrictions also means the removal of the legal requirement for NHS Covid passes for entry to large venues and nightclubs.
But some supermarkets will continue to either ask or suggest that shoppers don a mask, with one large chain saying “safety remains our highest priority”.
Public health guidance, which suggests people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where they come in to contact with strangers, will stay in place.
Both Sainsbury’s and John Lewis said their customers will be asked to wear masks, though the latter acknowledged it will ultimately come down to “personal choice”.
A spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s said: “Safety remains our highest priority. From Thursday, we’re asking our customers and colleagues in England to continue to wear a face covering in our stores if they are able to.”
She said stores “continue to have a range of safety measures… including screens and sanitising stations”.
We'll be suggesting people wear masks in our stores, although it will be down to individuals to make a personal choice.John Lewis spokeswoman
A spokeswoman for John Lewis and Partners, which includes Waitrose supermarkets, said: “We value the safety of our customers and partners and continue to follow the latest Government guidelines.
“From Thursday January 27, we’ll be suggesting people wear masks in our stores, although it will be down to individuals to make a personal choice.”
A spokeswoman for Morrisons said: “We will be continuing to follow the Government guidelines.”
Usdaw welcomed the retention of Covid-safety measures in some stores.
The shop workers’ union’s general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Government has ploughed on with ending mandatory face coverings in shops tomorrow, despite the concerns of shop workers.
“So we welcome early indications from some in the retail industry that they will keep Covid safety measure in stores, and we hope all retailers will continue to put staff and customer safety first.”
Downing Street said Boris Johnson would “exercise his judgment” on whether to wear a mask.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Like everyone else, it will be a matter of personal judgment, so he will continue to exercise his judgment on where he might find himself.”
Meanwhile, commuters on London’s public transport network will still be required to wear face coverings, with the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan calling on people to “do the right thing”.
In a statement last week, he said: “If we have learnt anything from this pandemic, it is that we must not get complacent and undo all our hard work and sacrifices.
“That’s why face coverings will remain a condition of carriage on Transport for London (TfL) services. I’m asking everyone in our capital to do the right thing and continue to wear a face covering when travelling on TfL services to keep us all protected and to prevent further restrictions from being necessary later down the line.”
The withdrawal of the requirement for Covid passes has been welcomed by those within the industry.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said:
“Businesses across the night time economy will celebrate the withdrawal of plan B restrictions on January 27.
“In particular, we will celebrate the withdrawal of Covid passports, which have not only directly impacted trade but have left a legacy of misplaced blame on a sector which fought to avoid the implementation of this debilitating and divisive mitigation.”
Mr Kill said the impact of the measure has left “many businesses now concerned that they will struggle to survive beyond February” and called for more Government support.
Shaun Hinds, chief executive at Manchester Central, which describes itself as one of the UK’s leading events venues, described the end of plan B as “a very positive move”.
He said “a number of significant enquiries for events in 2022” and new bookings for 2023 indicate a “real appetite and eagerness in the live events sector as it continues in its recovery”.
The Government said organisations will be able to choose whether to require NHS Covid passes from Thursday.