Boris Johnson triggered a row over masks last night as he ditched the legal diktat on their use – but urged many people to continue wearing them.
From July 19 the face coverings will no longer be required by law anywhere in England.
But at a Downing Street press conference last night, the Prime Minister suggested they should still be worn in crowded indoor places. And his top medical advisers went further, saying they would continue to wear them in a variety of situations.
Doctors, trade unions and Labour demanded the laws be kept in place.
Masks have been mandatory on public transport since last June and in shops since last July, with fines of up to £6,400.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the press during a briefing a Downing Street today
The British Medical Association said scrapping the fines 'made no sense' and union leaders suggested ministers would have blood on their hands.
Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, the Labour mayors of London and Greater Manchester, also criticised the move.
But others, including Tory MPs, said ministers should have gone further and claimed masks were unnecessary. Mr Johnson insisted it was time to 'trust' members of the public to use their own 'good judgment'.
He added: 'What we're trying to do is move from universal government diktat to relying on people's personal responsibility.
'Clearly there's a big difference between travelling on a crowded Tube train and sitting late at night in a virtually empty carriage on the main railway line.
'So what we want to do is for people to exercise their personal responsibility but to remember the value of face coverings both in protecting themselves, and others.'
The Prime Minister said he would 'obviously wear a mask in crowded places where you are meeting people that you don't know ... to protect others and as a matter of simple courtesy'.
Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, said he would continue to wear a face covering when in a crowded situation indoors, when required to by an authority and if someone was uncomfortable with him not wearing one.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Legal restrictions on wearing masks will be lifted completely, although places including hospitals and care homes may still decide to ask visitors to use them.
And it will be down to individual shops, hospitality venues and transport providers whether they request they are worn.
The Prime Minister suggested that masks should still be worn in crowded indoor places.