Tuesday 9 June 2020 8:37 am

Coronavirus: Cabinet ministers 'push to cut two metre social distancing rule'

A majority of Boris Johnson’s cabinet ministers are said to be putting pressure on Downing Street to relax the two-metre social distancing rule to contain coronavirus.

The Prime Minister, who will chair a cabinet meeting today, is thought to be sympathetic to calls to dispense with the two-metre rule, amid a clamour from the hospitality industry to do so.

Read more: UK pubs call for social distancing to be reduced to one metre

Such a move would involve replacing the restriction with a new one-metre rule, and would be designed to speed up the reopening of the economy through the summer months. 

However, any break from the two-metre rule would also mean overriding the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage).

Ministers pushing for the shorter distance include those among the group dubbed as the “save summer six,” according to the Financial Times. This includes chancellor Rishi Sunak, transport secretary Grant Shapps, and business secretary Alok Sharma.

The desire to bring the one-metre rule in has reportedly gained momentum since last week, when the Prime Minister was warned on Tuesday that not opening the hospitality sector for summer would cost 3.5m jobs.

The World Health Organisation’s official advice is for people to stay one metre from each other during the pandemic.

Spain and Canada have retained two-metre restrictions in line with the UK, while others have taken a more lenient approach.

France, China, and Denmark all have a one-metre rule, while Australia, Germany, and Italy have set their restriction at 1.5 metres.

One senior minister told the FT: “I would suggest that the majority of cabinet is definitely more inclined not to have an automatic two-metre rule.

“If other countries can do one metre or 1.5 metres why can’t we? What’s so special about the UK?”

A study published in the medical journal The Lancet said that keeping at least one-metre from others could be the best way to limit chances of infection.

Read more: Number 10 pours cold water on speculation UK pubs will open on 22 June

The risk of being infected is estimated to be 13 per cent within one metre, but only three per cent beyond that distance.

And the study adds that for every extra metre of distance up to 3m, the risk is further reduced by half.

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