News | Published June 12 2020

MPs call for two-metre social distancing rule to be axed

A number of backbench Conservative MPs are putting pressure on the government to lift its two-metre social distancing rule in England, warning that it will continue to weigh down on the economy should it remain in place.

Former cabinet ministers Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green are among the more prominent opponents of the rule.

With lockdown restrictions continuing to ease in England and prime minister Boris Johnson allowing adults living alone to visit one other household from the weekend in England, there have been calls from Parliament and industry to relax the two-metre rule to allow the hospitality sector – including pubs and restaurants - to reopen and public transport to increase capacity.

Sir Iain suggested there would be consequences for the economy if the rule remained in place, calling on the government to consider implementing a one-metre social distancing regulation as is currently the case in France, Denmark and Singapore, and outlined in the World Health Organization’s own Covid-19 guidelines.

Sir Iain said: "Our economy is facing a complete crash: the debts we're racking up on how we're supporting people, the fact no work or very little work is taking place.

"If we don't get the economy moving, we will be unable to afford any of the things that we need to support public services, so getting the balance right is important.”

Meanwhile, Green told the BBC that dispensing with the two-metre rule would make a “huge difference” to industry and was the “single biggest change” that should be made as lockdown restrictions ease.

Green said: "I think that makes a huge difference to many parts of industry, particularly hospitality businesses, restaurants, pubs, and so on.

"We've seen other countries do that, actually move from two metres to one metre, without any damaging effects so far."

The official spokesperson for the prime minister said that social distancing rules were “under constant review”, but that Johnson does not yet believe the time is right to relax the two-metre rule.

Addressing the rule, the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance described it as a “risk-based assessment”.

He said: “It [the two-metre rule] is a risk-based assessment on when risk reduces and the risks are associated with distance, so risk falls after two metres.

"It is wrong to portray this as a scientific rule that says it is two metres or nothing - that is not what the advice has been and it is not what the advice is now.”

Elsewhere, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that the reopening of schools has been mismanaged after it emerged this week that the government reneged on plans to have all primary school year groups back in school before the summer holidays.

September is now the target for the majority of year groups in primary and secondary schools to return, depending on how the virus continues to spread.

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
June 12 2020

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