Here’s when the two metre rule could be relaxed - and if it could allow schools and pubs to reopen

Thursday, 11th June 2020, 12:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th June 2020, 12:47 pm
MPs have also called for a change in guidance (Photo: Shutterstock)
MPs have also called for a change in guidance (Photo: Shutterstock)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering relaxing the two metre social distancing rule in England, in a bid to allow schools to fully reopen by September.

The UK Government is facing increasing calls to ease the restriction, with former cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green saying it is essential for the economy.

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Should the rule be relaxed?

Despite the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in England, there are fears in Westminster and among the business community that keeping the two metre social distancing rule in place will impede recovery.

Labour leader Sir Keir Stamer has criticised the government’s effort to get primary pupils back into schools, claiming it would be easier to do if social distancing was more relaxed.

MPs have also called for a change in guidance to help restart the economy, with claims that cutting the two metre restriction could help pubs and to reopen again.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said this week that businesses want the rule to be reviewed for economic reasons, while Sir Iain claimed that keeping the rule in place will mean pubs, restaurants and cafes will be unable to fully recover, or even open again at all.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Sir Iain said: “The number one and single most important priority to unlock the economy is getting the distance down to one metre.

“The difference between one and two metres is the difference between opening the economy properly and seeing it bump along at the bottom without being able to bounce back.

“The hospitality sector simply can’t make a living at two metres.

“It’s restrictive at one metre but at least they can come close to making it work. And it’s impossible to run public transport properly at two metres.’

Will the two metre rule be relaxed?

Speaking at the Downing Street daily press briefing on Wednesday (10 June), Mr Johnson promised that the government would keep the two metre rule “under constant review”.

However, he warned there was a “balance of risk” to be struck, and caution is still needed at the moment, suggesting the rule won’t be relaxed just yet.

Mr Johnson said: “I think the issue for me is how far down we can get the incidents of the disease. It’s not down as low as I would like.

“My judgement at present is that we must proceed cautiously and I think that is shared by the overwhelming majority of the public.”

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK's chief scientific adviser, said at the briefing that the two metre advice is "not a scientific rule", but is a risk based assessment.

He said: "It is a risk based assessment on when risk reduces and the risks are associated with distance, so risk falls after 2m.

"It is wrong to portray this as a scientific rule that says it is two metres or nothing - that is not what the advice has been and it is not what the advice is now."

MPs have called for the Prime Minister to move to a one metre policy instead, in line with World Health Organisation advice.

Such guidance is already being followed by several countries, including France, Denmark and Singapore.