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Boris Johnson orders review of two-metre social distancing rule to help pubs re-open

Pubs have to stick to the two-metre rule on social distancing (PA)

2 min read

Boris Johnson has asked Government experts to look again at the two-metre social distancing rule in the hope it can be reduced.

The Prime Minister said the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) would review the policy after suggestions halving it to one metre could help pubs re-open and save thousands of jobs.

Speaking to the Liaison Committee of senior MPs, Mr Johnson said: "My own hope is that as we make progress in getting the virus down, in reducing the incidence, that we will be able to reduce that distance, which I think will be particularly valuable in transport and clearly the hospitality sector."

He explained that the current Sage advice says there is "a very considerable reduction in risk at two metres".

But pressed by Tory MP Greg Clark to review the distance, the PM replied: "I can not only make that commitment, I can tell you I've already done just that."

It comes after Mr Clark, the former business secretary, pointed out that the UK is an outlier at sticking to two metres, as many countries - including Hong Kong, Singapore, France and China - now say one metre apart is enough. 

Earlier this week Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, suggested the guidance could change.

“We have taken a precautionary approach to say two metres apart, full stop,” she told the Science and Technology Committee of MPs. 

“We are still learning about the virus.” 

But she said she was aware that a reduction in the two-metre rule could make the difference between businesses reopening or not.

It comes after the pub industry warned that two-thirds of jobs in the sector could be lost unless social distancing restrictions are reduced to one metre.

In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), British Institute of Innkeeping and UKHospitality called for the furlough programme to be held at its current 80% of salary level for hospitality staff until October, as the industry will take longer to get back up and running.

And Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: "Under two metre social distancing rules, pubs will have less space to operate with so will need less staff.

"Many pubs won't even be able to re-open, yet they could be expected to cover part of their staff furlough costs from August without any money coming in.

"Such a situation would mean either pubs closing for good or jobs being lost.”

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