Coronavirus: UK’s two-metre social distancing rule could be changed to allow closer contact

Public health official said nation had taken a ‘cautionary’ approach to introducing rule when other countries were using shorter distances

Friday, 22nd May 2020, 8:43 pm

Updated

Friday, 22nd May 2020, 8:44 pm

The two-metre social distancing rule could be changed to allow closer contact and support businesses reopening, a senior public health official has said.

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But when asked why the UK had decided on two metres when other countries like France, China and Hong Kong advised one metre, she said it will continue to be reviewed to see if it can be reduced. The World Health Organisation also says people should stay just one metre apart.

Professor Doyle said: “We are aware of the international differences and I am sure this will be the subject of continued investigation as to whether two metres is actually necessary or whether that can be reduced further.”

On Wednesday, police attended Portobello beach in Edinburgh to disperse crowds that had gathered to enjoy the Sun (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

Easing lockdown measures was an “important decision” but also a trade-off between the needs of the economy and businesses and the anxieties of the public, she said.

“It is an important decision… and we are fully aware of that. On one side we are aware of the requirements of the economy and business and on the other side we are aware of the concerns and anxieties of the population. This is a trade-off, it is a balance, but you are quite right the science should inform the measures as we go forward.”

Bankrupt pubs

Her comments come after the chief executive of a brewery warned that pubs will go bankrupt if staff and customers have to keep two metres apart. Andy Wood of Adnams brewery said the two-metre social distancing rule will make it “very difficult” for pubs to operate and suggested a reduction to one metre as long as it does not come at the expense of people’s safety.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said that if the UK followed the World Health Organisation’s advice of imposing a one-metre distance it would “enable many more pubs to viably reopen and serve their communities again”.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said that for many pubs, implementing a two-metre rule will be “impossible” and mean they are closed for much longer.

“Reopening in July will be great for those pubs who can meet the social-distancing measures required by then,” she said. “However, it must be recognised that no two pubs are the same and for many, ensuring a distance of two metres will be impossible, keeping them closed for much longer.

“Actioning advice from the WHO for example to use one metre for social distancing from July would enable many more pubs to viably reopen and serve their communities again. We stand ready to work with the Government to help pubs reopen in a safe and financially viable way as soon as possible.”

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