Great Britain

Two-metre social distancing measure could be relaxed – if rules are followed, Vallance says

THE two-metre social distancing measure could be relaxed - if the rules are followed, the Government's chief scientific adviser has said.

Sir Patrick Vallance suggested that there's a lower risk of transmitting the virus if people are sitting back to back or side to side.

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Relaxing the two-metre rule to one metre would help hospitality businesses, such as pubs, to reopen and public transport to operate at a higher capacity.

But Sir Patrick added that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had concluded that being within one metre of an infected person was 10-30 times riskier than the current two-metre rule.

Sage has previously warned against changing the measure - adding that blurring this message could become confusing.

We’ve not said it’s two metres or nothing

Sir Patrick Vallancechief scientific adviser

Speaking at the Downing Street press briefing last night, Sir Patrick said: “We’ve not said it’s two metres or nothing.

"[We’ve said] this is the scientific evidence that explains why two metres is a distance beyond which things are safer.

"And we’ve also laid out what the sort of things are that reduce those risks.

"So for example, being back to back or side to side, and in some cases wearing face coverings, in some cases looking at ventilation.”

He added: “We don’t make policy, we give science advice. From that policy decisions can be made.”

PM's support

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said he was aiming to reduce the two-metre social distancing rule so he can help pubs and shops reopen sooner.

He told MPs he hoped once the virus rates go down "we will be able to reduce that distance" and get bars up and running again.

He said: "[There is a] considerable reduction in risk at that distance, compared to a smaller gap.

"My own hope is that as we make progress in getting the virus down... we will be able to reduce that distance which I think will be particularly valuable on (public) transport and in the hospitality sector.

"Their answer is that that is what they feel is the right interval for us. We rely and have done throughout on the guidance we get from our advisers and that is what they think is appropriate at the moment but... that may evolve."

Last night, he announced a raft of new measures that would gradually ease lockdown for England - after meeting the Government's five tests.

Friends and family will be able to meet in parks and gardens in socially distanced groups of six and people would be able to see "both parents at once, or both grandparents at once".

Schools, outdoor retailers and car showrooms will also be allowed to open on Monday ahead of a greater opening of non-essential shops on June 15.

But Sir Patrick stressed "there is not a lot of room" to ease measures, with new Covid-19 cases still around 8,000 per day.

He warned that with the rate of transmission, or R value, "close to one", the test and trace system must be effective in order to prevent exponential spread returning.

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty warned that although groups of six would be able to meet up outside to socialise and even enjoy barbecues people from different households must keep two metres apart.

Prof Whitty said the more than one million people deemed extremely clinically vulnerable must continue shielding, but offered a glimmer of hope when he said that the infection level may be sufficiently reduced to allow their freedom "relatively soon".

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Sir Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty asked about potential relaxing of two metre coronavirus social distancing rule

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