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Two-metre rule looks set to be relaxed ahead of London pubs reopening

Tomorrow the government should announce a reduction in social distancing from two metres to one

Laura Richards

The result of a review into the two-metre rule that has defined your last three months will be announced this week. And it’s looking likely that the government will introduce relaxed social-distancing measures in England to help kickstart the country’s economy – with a particular view to boosting the hospitality sector – by reducing the two-metre rule to a one-metre rule.

Pubs, restaurants, bars, hotels, hairdressers, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres could open as early as July 4 as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, and tomorrow Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce whether England is still on track to progress to this step as planned. 

It’s now increasingly likely an announcement will be made to coincide on the status of the two-metre social-distancing rule. With the news on Friday (June 19) that the virus alert level had fallen from four to three, Johnson said: ‘As the alert level comes down, that will allow us to start making some progress, as I've said, on our plan and with the social-distancing measures. So when we go forward to July 4, which is the next big stage in the plan, we hope that there will be more guidance out very, very shortly that will help people, help businesses, help hospitality to prepare for that.’ 

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had previously advised that the two-metre distance be kept in place or that face coverings be used in scenarios that involve face-to-face contact where that distance has to be reduced. But with the infection rate decreasing, relaxed rules look increasingly likely to come into force to help pubs, restaurants and other aspects of the hospitality sector reopen. Many of London’s hospitality venues have admitted that they simply wouldn’t be able to operate under the current two-metre social-distancing rule.  

Other places, like France and Hong Kong, have adopted a one-metre distance rule as they have come out of lockdown. The two-metre rule reduction is likely to include new guidance on face coverings and other protection businesses should put in place to help contain the spread of the virus. 

For pubs and restaurants where the use of face coverings is a bit more complicated, the government is said to be discussing a system whereby people leave their contact details with the establishments that they visit for a drink or a meal – a procedure that’s already been adopted in parts of Australia and in New Zealand – to enable speedier contact tracing when outbreaks of the virus occur. 

The prime minister is discussing the measures in a committee meeting today, to be followed by an announcement to the public tomorrow – with new rules expected to come into play on July 4 as originally planned in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.   

What will bars and pubs be like when they reopen

Read all the latest rules around social distancing in London.

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