Dominic Raab photographed at Chelsea game without a mask

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Image shows justice secretary apparently ignoring club guidance to wear face covering while seated in stadium

Dominic Raab has been pictured without a mask at a Chelsea match this week, despite the club having urged fans to keep face coverings on while seated in the stadium.

A spokesperson for the deputy prime minister and justice secretary said he “followed the rules at all times”, given that government guidance states masks only need to be worn indoors at sport stadiums.

However, the government has urged people to exercise extreme caution in the run-up to New Year’s Eve, with the Omicron variant fuelling a surge in cases to record high levels.

There were 183,037 new infections reported across the UK on Wednesday, when Raab travelled to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea’s draw with Brighton and Hove Albion.

The home club issued “important information” for fans attending the game, telling them: “Supporters will be required to wear masks in all indoor areas of the stadium, including the concourses, except when they are eating or drinking. Masks are not required when seated or walking outside the stadium, but they are recommended.”

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A supporter near Raab took a photo of the unmasked cabinet minister next to another fan who did appear to be wearing a face covering. Others in the background can be seen without one.

An observer who wanted to remain anonymous said: “Personally I find it quite surprising that a senior minister would think it wise to sit in a tightly crowded public arena and ignore health recommendations to wear a mask for 90 minutes during this Omicron surge.

“For me it’s his decision-making which should be called into question. It’s a busy football game, he can be easily spotted and Covid cases are high. He’s not really bothered about setting the best example.”

A spokesperson for Raab said: “He followed the rules at all times.”

Ministers have advised people to be extra careful during the festive period given that people are likely to be mingling more with elderly relatives.

The rules remain that people only need to get a Covid test for certain reasons, but health officials have gone further in light of Omicron’s spread and a reluctance by minister to implement any tougher restrictions than plan B.

Some government advisers have suggested people should adapt their behaviour further than the rules, for example by deprioritising socialising or getting tested before they meet up with friends.

Ministers have been accused before of failing to set a good example. Boris Johnson was pictured not wearing a mask during part of a visit to a hospital in Northumberland last month.

At the time, Raab defended the prime minister, telling Sky News: “Like many of us, we take the advice and guidance that we’ve got in different settings and that’s the right thing for us to do as politicians and it’s the right thing for the public to do.”

• This article was amended on 30 December 2021. The prime minister was seen last month without a mask at a hospital in Northumberland, not Northumbria.

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