Two-metre rule 'could be reduced in England before rest of UK', admits Downing Street

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Boris Johnson's official spokesman said it is possible England will reduce the two-metre social distancing rule before Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. (PA Images)

The two-metre social distancing rule to limit the coronavirus’s spread could be reduced in England before the rest of the UK, Downing Street has said.

The prime minister’s official spokesman admitted it was a “theoretical possibility” the nation could move ahead of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

All are moving ahead at different speeds as they ease up their lockdowns.

Speaking on Wednesday, the PM’s spokesman said: “Matters of public health are devolved, so it is a theoretical possibility that the position could be different in different parts of the UK.”

Read more: Virus death toll 'would have been 50% lower' if lockdown started a week earlier

The two-metre rule was implemented to try to stop the virus spreading easily between households.

However, some businesses have said they would struggle to operate if their customers have to keep two metres apart.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said two-thirds of jobs in pubs could be lost unless the distance was reduced to one metre.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Johnson said: “I believe that those measures, the two-metre rule, need now be kept under review.

“As we drive this disease down, as we get the incidence down, working together, I want to make sure we keep that two-metre rule under constant review.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford argued that any reduction in the rule posed a risk.

Read more: A quarter of Britons would solely blame virus second wave on the government

“We know that the cabinet has discussed reducing the two-metre social distancing rule but that’s not the experts’ advice right now,” he said.

“Sage [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] reported that being exposed to the virus for six seconds at one metre is the same as being exposed for one minute at two metres.

“That is a significant increase in risk.”

Johnson said: “There are all sorts of views about the two-metre rule, he’s absolutely correct in what he says about the Sage advice.

“But clearly, as the incidence of the disease comes down, as I think members of Sage would confirm, the statistical likelihood of being infected – no matter how close or far you are from somebody who may or may not have coronavirus – goes down.”

The comments come as retail businesses prepare to welcome back customers from Monday.

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