Freedom day: Two-thirds of Brits will keep wearing masks in shops

·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
A member of staff wears a face mask as he serves drinks at The Piano Works in Farringdon, in London, on Monday. Photo: AP/Alberto Pezzali
A member of staff wears a face mask as he serves drinks at The Piano Works in Farringdon, in London, on Monday. Photo: AP/Alberto Pezzali

The majority of Brits plan to continue wearing masks in shops and on transport even as legal requirements end.

Monday 19 July marks 'freedom day' in Britain, as laws are scrapped for COVID policies such as social distancing and wearing masks. But most Brits will continue wearing face coverings voluntarily, according to a national survey, as cases of the Delta variant soar.

The Office for National Statistics said last week that a survey of Brits found 64% planned to keep wearing face masks in shops even after the end of legal requirements. The same percentage plan to wear them on transport.

Major retailers including Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) have told customers to keep following COVID protocols even after the end of legal mandates and Transport for London has said face masks will be compulsory for the foreseeable future.

Watch: Shoppers ‘expected’ to wear masks after legal requirement ends on Monday

Caution comes as COVID-19 cases soar. New cases have reached 50,000 a day and more than 1 million people are isolating after coming into contact with someone who tested positive.

"While restrictions have now been lifted, we’re urging all shoppers to respect the house rules at each business they visit from today, as owners strive to keep customers and staff safe," said Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

"The government and police should be getting the message across that firms will be supported if customers refuse to abide by their terms of doing business."

UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday told people to exercise "extreme caution" in their day-to-day lives even as he removed legal limits. Johnson is himself self-isolating after health secretary Sajid Javid tested positive.

The ONS said 60% of Brits planned to avoid crowded places even after restrictions ended. 57% said they were worried about the end of restrictions.

Shares in UK companies once tipped to benefit from reopening sunk on Monday as hopes of a 'freedom day' boom faded. Cinema owner Cineworld (CINE.L) fell 4.9%, Wagamama-owner The Restaurant Group (RTN.L) crashed 5.5%, and train operator FirstGroup (FGP.L) dropped 4.1%.

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