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Two-metre distancing rule could be relaxed to allow Brits to go back to work, minister suggests

Rules on keeping two metres apart could be relaxed (PA)

3 min read

The rules on keeping two metres apart could be relaxed to allow Brits to go back to work, a Cabinet minister has suggested.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace pointed to supermarket staff working behind “shields” as being a possible route to maintaining social distancing after an easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

He also talked about using protective equipment to help continue to prevent the spread of infection in public and in the workplace.

Mr Wallace told Sky News: "You can look at shielding, you can look at how long you stay near people. 

“The two-metre rule reduces the possibility of infection by a certain amount of time.

"If you halve that it still keeps people away from being infected but for a lesser time. 

“The probability of being infected is much less. I think there are options about how we can do it. 

“You can wear PPE, that could be a possibility if you have to be in close proximity or indeed you could find other ways of doing it."

The minister also appeared on BBC Breakfast to discuss the issue, saying: "I think there are lots of ways: there's PPE, there's use of time.

"You could be closer than two metres but not for long at all. There are a range of ways to do this.

"And if it's very vital you work next to each other then potentially things like shields that you see in supermarkets, or indeed PPE, is a way forward.”

But Number 10 later insisted there had been "no change to the two-metre rule".

The Prime Minister's spokesperson said: "We continue to advise that people should remain two metres apart from each other, that's not changed".

It comes as Boris Johnson is set to unveil plans to ease the strict lockdown measures on Sunday, after potential new guidelines for employers were revealed.

The Prime Minister’s “roadmap” will reportedly include reduced hot-desking and minimised equipment sharing, as well as staggering shift times and continued encouragement to work from home where possible.

The draft strategy, seen by the BBC, also says additional hygiene procedures and physical screens should be considered where maintaining distancing between workers is impossible, but a section marked PPE is said only to contain a promise "more detail" will follow.

Mr Wallace said ministers are trying to source as many face masks as possible in case of updated advice about wearing them in public.

He told Sky News: "It's not the amazing thing if you wear a mask that no one's going to get it.

"But there is obviously this issue about human nature and interactions: if you go on public transport and wear a mask will you feel able to go back to work?"

"At the same time, to anticipate should different rules be made around masks, we're trying to source as many masks as possible as we speak and have been for the last few weeks."

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