Sajid Javid suggests maskless cabinet meeting okay as MPs are not 'strangers'

Cabinet members were pictured not wearing masks in a crowded meeting. Credit: PA/No10 Downing Street

Tory MPs did not need to wear masks during a crowded meeting as they are not “strangers”, the health secretary has suggested. Sajid Javid said the government’s advice says people should consider wearing face coverings when they were gathered in a packed space with people they did not normally mix with. He said a photograph of the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, showing ministers around the table with their faces uncovered, was consistent with that advice.

"At the right time, people should wear masks and we set out guidelines around that. A lot of people do, particularly if you're in a crowded place with lots of strangers," he told ITV News.

Sajid Javid defends cabinet members for not wearing masks

Since Parliament resumed full sittings there has been a stark difference between the number of MPs wearing masks on the Opposition benches and on the Conservative side of the House.

During his Commons statement on Tuesday, Mr Javid was heckled by Opposition MPs pointing out his unmasked colleagues as he suggested people should wear a face covering in “crowded, enclosed spaces where you can come into contact with people that you don’t normally meet”.

Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings branded the Health Secretary “trainwreck Saj” for suggesting that “MPs dont (sic) need masks cos ‘theyre (sic) not strangers'”.

There's a significant difference between the amount of masks worn by MPs on the Opposition (right) and the Tory side of parliament (left).

The former No 10 adviser, who argued for tighter lockdown measures in autumn 2020, mocked the Government’s Plan B policy of extra restrictions only coming in when the situation was already “out of control”.

On Wednesday, Mr Javid told ITV News' Good Morning Britain Covid will not be "behind us next year".

"Covid is with us for years, it is probably with us forever," he said.

Listen to the ITV News coronavirus podcast, Unscripted

"We're going to have to live with Covid."

He accepted hospitalisations from coronavirus have increased in the UK, but added the death rate is "mercifully low".

On Tuesday, Sir Patrick Vallance said the nation is at a “pivot point” and told ministers to react swiftly if cases quickly rise, warning “you can’t wait until it’s late because you’ve got to do more”.