Coronavirus: Review of 2m social distancing rule ‘to conclude within days’

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A review into the 2m social distancing rule will conclude “within the coming days”, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has told the BBC.

It comes amid warnings many businesses will not survive under the current guidance as the government prepares to ease more restrictions on 4 July.

Pubs, restaurants and hotels are among those hoping to reopen.

Pubs could be patrolled and people could be encouraged to use apps to order drinks, according to The Times.

Downing Street said the government would update the country on the social distancing rules next week.

It comes as the coronavirus alert level was downgraded from four to three on Friday.

Under level three, the virus is considered to be “in general circulation” and there could be a “gradual relaxation of restrictions” – whereas in level four transmission was considered to be “high or rising exponentially”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson commissioned the review on 14 June, saying there was “margin for manoeuvre” in the 2m social distancing rule as the number of coronavirus cases falls.

The daily UK update provided by the government on Friday showed there were 173 coronavirus deaths recorded across the UK on 18 June, taking the total to 42,461.

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions that the government’s review of the 2m rule will be “concluding shortly, within the coming days”.

His comments came as a raft of measures reported in The Times reveal how parts of the hospitality sector could look significantly different compared to pre-lockdown.

The guidance drawn up by ministers and the hospitality sector would encourage punters to order drinks via an app, rather than at the bar and patrols to enforce social distancing could also be expected, it says.

Meanwhile, tables at restaurants would not be set in advance and room service in hotels would be left outside guests’ doors, the paper adds.

The government has been under pressure from industry leaders and its own MPs to relax the 2m rule, with widespread concerns around the impact it would have on the UK economy.

The UK government currently advises people to stay 2m (6ft 6in) apart from others to avoid spreading coronavirus.

The World Health Organization recommends a distance of at least 1m (just over 3ft), but the UK government’s scientific advisers say that being 1m apart carries up to 10 times the risk of being 2m apart.

The 2m distance has been implemented by all nations of the UK, which have their own powers over restrictions.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the BBC earlier this month that he would like to see the rule relaxed if “safe and possible” to do so, adding that the review will take evidence from scientists as well as economists.

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Media captionThe UK government is advising us to stay two metres apart – but what does that look like?

Some bars, restaurants and pubs say they will be unable to make a profit if the 2m guidance is still in place when they reopen. Tourism firms have also warned of tens of thousands of job losses unless the distance is shortened.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the industry body UK Hospitality, previously said that with a 2m rule, outlets would be only able to make about 30% of normal revenues, whereas 1m would increase that to 60-75%.

On Friday, the government announced that all pupils in all year groups in England will go back to school full-time in September.

The prime minister also announced a £1bn fund to help England’s pupils catch up with learning.

There are separate rules for managing the threat of coronavirus in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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