According to this month’s data, 89 per cent of people said they had worn a face covering outside their home in the past week, down from a high of 98 per cent at the start of May.
While the proportion of people sticking to the wearing of face masks is high, the drop is equivalent to around 4.3 million people who have stopped wearing them since the government lifted most coronavirus restrictions in July.
The ONS noted that a “high proportion” of UK adults still feel that measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 were either very important or important, including wearing face masks (87 per cent) and social distancing (87 per cent).
It comes after the health secretary Sajid Javid it was the government’s advice that people should consider wearing face coverings when they are gathered in a crowded space with people they did not normally mix with.
However, he said that Tory MPs do not need to wear face masks in the Commons because they are not “strangers”.
His comments were in response to a photograph of the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, which showed ministers around a table without face masks.
“Conservative backbenchers, whether they are in Parliament, in the chamber itself or other meeting rooms, you have to take measures that are appropriate for the prevalence of Covid at the time,” Javid told Sky News.
The British Medical Association (BMA) warned that Javid’s remarks “send a message that the pandemic is over”, adding that ministers should be “leading by example”.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair council at the BMA, said: “As the government’s own health advisers recognise, we are at a critical moment in the development of the pandemic.
“For a government which has extolled the importance of personal responsibility to show so little personal responsibility themselves is quite shocking.
“Covid-19 is no less likely to pass between loved ones and friends than it is between strangers; it doesn’t discriminate,” he added.
On Tuesday, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that vaccine passports, mandatory face masks and work-from-home orders will be reintroduced in England if the NHS becomes overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases this winter.
Announcing the government’s plan for dealing with coronavirus and the flu during the colder months, Johnson said that implementing the measures would be “Plan B” if there is a sharp rise in hospitalisations.
“Plan A” focuses on handing out booster vaccinations and vaccinating teenagers.
“Covid is still out there, the disease sadly still remains a risk but I’m confident we can keep going with our plan… and protect the gains that we have made together,” said Johnson.
Additional reporting by PA