The National:

THE UK has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates at the world at the moment, but Jacob Rees-Mogg is making jokes about masks in the Commons.

A day after Sajid Javid gave a statement assuring people in England that “Plan B” – face masks, vaccine passports etc – would not be introduced amid increasing case levels, the Leader of the House was challenged on why the MPs on the Conservative benches don’t don face coverings.

According to official UK Government guidance, masks are no longer legally mandated in England but should be worn in crowded places.

The National:

SNP MP Pete Wishart complained about the “comic appearance” of the Commons, with one side wearing masks and the other not. He noted he had only counted about 14 Tory MPs wearing them this morning.

He said that is “a little bit better” than before the most recent recess, but “we’ve got to do better than this – we’re going to be back to compulsory face mask wearing, we’re going to be back to further restrictions, we’re going to follow the rest of mainland Europe because we’re way ahead in terms of infection, so we’re going to have to do something, let’s do it now, let us set that example.”

In response, Rees-Mogg said: “There is no advice to wear face masks in workplaces. The advice on crowded spaces is with crowded spaces with people that you don’t know. We on this side know each other.”

READ MORE: No basis for Sajid Javid's claim about wearing masks around 'strangers', MP admits

He then joked that “it may be that the honourable gentleman doesn’t like mixing with his own side”, adding “but we on this side have a more convivial, fraternal spirit, and therefore are following the guidance of Her Majesty’s Government”.

Whether the UK’s increasing hospitalisations, daily case totals and death figures are a joking matter, we’ll leave up to you to decide.

But one thing’s for sure – Covid-19 definitely doesn’t care if you’re convivial or fraternal with somebody else. And it’s pretty outrageous that a senior government figure would make that suggestion.

It’s not even the first time a UK Government figure has implied this. In fact, it’s only a few weeks since Health Secretary Sajid Javid told members of the public to wear masks “when they are with strangers”.

The National:

Asked on Sky if you can catch Covid from your friends, Javid said: "People should consider wearing masks in crowded places when they are with strangers, when they are with people that they are not normally spending time with."

SNP MP Stephen Flynn asked vaccines minister Maggie Throup whether that advice had been backed up by science. She confirmed Public Health England had not made a comparative assessment about transmission rates between people who know each other and those who don’t.

What a surprise!