Boris Johnson: Too early to ease two-metre social distancing rule
Boris Johnson has shot down hopes for an imminent change to England’s two-metre social distancing rule, despite pleas from the hospitality sector.
Johnson said the rate of coronavirus incidents had not come down enough to make the change, but to “watch this space”.
The news will come as a disappointment for hospitality businesses across England, after Johnson said last week that the government would review the rule.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also said on Sunday the government would take a “fresh look” at the restriction and that there would be a “comprehensive review”.
Speaking at today’s daily press briefing, Johnson said: “As we depress the numbers, as we reduce the incidents [of coronavirus], we will also have a strong case for reviewing those measures.
“We can’t do it yet, we need to continue to make progress.”
Hospitality bodies have been lobbying the government to reduce the rule to one metre – in line with World Health Organisation advice – to ensure venues can open when the lockdown is eased further.
UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls has warned that if the two-metre rule is kept that only one-third of hospitality venues would be able to operate profitably.
If it is cut to one metre, it is estimated that two-thirds of hospitality businesses would be able to operate profitably.
It has been speculated that chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Chris Whitty are opposed to changing the rule.
When asked about a potential change at the press briefing today, Vallance said: “Two metres is safer than one metre, but it’s not an absolute, it’s relative.
“There are things you can do to reduce the risk on top of that, such as being side by side instead of face to face.”
Numerous Conservative MPs have spoken out about needing to cut the distance to help get the economy moving again.
Speaking to MPs yesterday, Greg Clark said: “[Many] countries have a shorter distance rule but require face coverings to be worn. Why is it right for them but wrong for us?
“Millions of people, workers in pubs, cafes and restaurants and in manufacturing industries, as well as children going to school and young adults in colleges and universities, depend on this decision.”
The hospitality industry is also waiting for confirmation of when they can reopen.
The government’s roadmap says the sector will not be allowed to reopen before 4 July, which is now less than three weeks away.