Sajid Javid has said he would not wear a face mask on a quiet train even if there was a sign asking him to once restrictions are eased.
Boris Johnson has announced the law mandating face coverings will likely be scrapped from July 19, under plans to lift almost all Covid rules in England.
The health secretary said on Tuesday he would carry a mask with him for the “foreseeable future” but would not always put it on even if requested.
“If I was on crowded tube in London I would wear a mask,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“If I was on the West Coast mainline going up to my constituency and it’s late at night and there are about three people in the carriage, even if it said ‘we recommend a mask’, I wouldn’t wear a mask.”
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, told the Downing Street press conference on Monday he would continue to wear a mask when asked to “by any competent authority”.
Javid also suggested Covid cases could rise to more than 100,000 a day in the summer as rules are ditched.
“But what matters more than anything is hospitalisation and death numbers, and that is where the link has been severely weakened,” he said.
Labour criticised the Government’s plan as “reckless” and called for ministers to maintain protections such as mask wearing.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said the lifting of coronavirus restrictions is a “calculated risk”.
He told Times Radio: “We do have good data now that does indicate we are gradually breaking the links in the chain between community cases and severe cases in hospital.”
He went on to say: “I should point out, looking at the data last night, 88% of people in hospital, from what I could see, had not been vaccinated or had had the vaccine but hadn’t had the chance to develop immunity, so that’s within 28 days of the vaccine.
“There’s now an incredibly strong signal that the vaccination is working and protecting the vast majority of people.”
Another government adviser, Professor Neil Ferguson, said he expected the number of daily cases to rise above the 50,000 suggested by the prime minister but the impact of the vaccines would keep deaths far lower than in previous waves.
“What we do know is in the second wave there was a certain ratio between cases and hospitalisations and that ratio right now is being reduced by more than two-thirds, as we get more second doses into people it will go down even further,” he told Today.
“Even more positively, the ratio which we saw in the past between case numbers and deaths has been reduced by more like eight to 10-fold.
“So the third wave, even if the number of cases per day gets very high, we’re still likely to see lower numbers of hospitalisations and deaths than we saw back in December and January just gone.”