2 metre rule review to conclude 'within days,' says UK minister

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

The UK government's review into whether or not to relax the two metre social distancing guideline will conclude "within days," according to Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Secretary, Oliver Dowden.

Responding to a comparison of England's physical guidelines to Northern Ireland, where the rule has been dropped to allow schools to reopen, the minister told the BBC that the government had "committed to review the two metre to one metre rule," as set out by the Prime Minister  last weekend. 

"We'll be concluding on that shortly," he added. 

"Within the coming days, we'll get the outcome of that." 

"It's important that we look at the evidence, which is the approach we've always taken, and we've worked with the scientists and the medical officers in order to do that." 

The news comes as the UK's chief medical officers advised government to reduce the Coronavirus threat level from 4 to 3 on Friday, meaning, according to the gradient system, that the virus has gone from being "in general circulation," with transmission "high or rising exponentially" to simply being "in general circulation." 

Many in the hospitality and tourism sectors would applaud a reduction in the mandated safe physical distance between people, as it could mean the difference between filling restaurants, bars and pubs to 70-75% capacity, as opposed to just 30 with the two metre rule. 

For many, the latter could be a death sentence, making profitability impossible. 

A one, or one and a half metre guideline is applied in many countries around the world, (1 metre in France, Denmark and Singaporea, 1.5 in Germany and Australia) as per the World Health Organisation's recommendation "of at least 1 metre," which has allowed schools and the hospitality sector to reopen as lockdown measures have been relaxed.

In Sweden, where no lockdown has happened at all, people are required to stand 1.5 metres apart, and restaurants have remained open to Swedes throughout the pandemic. 

Last week, the editor of medical journal The Lancet, said that the debate as to whether 2 metres was necessary was "missing the point," explaining that "What matters is combination prevention—physical distancing (minimum 1 metre, more if you can), hand washing, respiratory hygiene, face masks in enclosed spaces, and avoid mass gatherings. 2 metres is no magic bullet."

The two metre rule is just one element of difficulty with regards to the reopening of restaurants, pubs and bars. Professionals in the industry continue to call for clarity on rent - despite an extension of the moratorium on lease forfeitures on commercial properties announced on Friday - the flexible furlough scheme, and how businesses will be asked to operate to comply with regulations

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 20th June 2020

2 metre rule review to conclude 'within days,' says UK minister