Pressure grows to cut two-metre social distancing rule

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Pressure for PM Boris Johnson to cut two-metre social distancing rule to one metre Coronavirus

Related tags: Coronavirus, Restaurant, Government, Social Distancing

Conservative MPs are reportedly calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to cut the two-metre social distancing rule, a move many hospitality operators have said will be integral to their survival.

MPs who have come out in support of a reduction to the contact gap are understood to include Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, and former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

According to the Daily Mail​, the Chancellor held a meeting yesterday (10 June) with the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, where he is said to have backed their calls to slash the two-metre rule to save jobs.

It is believed the Prime Minister wants to make the switch, but is nervous about it leading to a second Coronavirus peak. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends people maintain a distance of at least one metre between each other.

At a press briefing on Tuesday (9 June) in which he confirmed that the earliest hospitality businesses will be able to reopen will be 4 July​, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said a Government review on potentially relaxing the gap was 'ongoing'.

“When it is safe to do so, we will see whether you can move to a shorter distance but ultimately we keep all of these things under review," he said.

“We are taking a cautious view on this. I completely understand why for economic reasons businesses will want to have a look at this two-metre rule."

Voices from across the industry have been speaking out about the need for the contact gap to be reduced, with the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) urging the Government to review the guideline ahead of the sector's planned reopening on 4 July.

According to the trade body, failure to reduce the gap will mean 25,000 English pubs, or two thirds of the overall total, will be forced to stay closed post lockdown with no hope of reopening.

Under one metre social distancing guidelines, it says 75% (or 28,000) of the country's pubs would be able to reopen.

“No reduction in the two metre social distancing guidelines will severely restrict the recovery of our sector. Countless other countries from across the world are using one metre for social distancing as advised by WHO; why can’t we," says Emma McClarkin, CEO of the BBPA.

“If the position is reviewed and Government adopt the one metre social distancing rule, it will give our sector real hope that the Government wants to help our breweries and pubs, and the communities they serve, get back on their feet.

“Sadly, if no reduction is made before 4 July this could result in devastating pub closures and job losses in communities across England that can been avoided. It’s not too late though for the Government to review this, as its being suggested they are, and for them to adopt one metre for social distancing.

"Failing this the Government must detail a package of financial support to sustain pubs and brewers through this prolonged period of closure and to help stave off mass job losses."

Related topics: Business

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