PM set to announce relaxation of social distancing measures

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

PM set to announce relaxation of social distancing measures to one metre

Related tags: Social Distancing, Government, Coronavirus

Boris Johnson is reportedly set to announce a reduction in the Government's two-metre social distancing rule tomorrow (23 June).

According to Sky News​, the Prime Minister is also expected to confirm plans that will allow the hospitality sector to reopen on 4 July.

It comes after the UK's Coronavirus alert level was downgraded from four to three​ last week, which allows for a ‘gradual relaxation of restrictions and social distancing measures’.

In line with the Government’s roadmap for lifting the Coronavirus lockdown, 4 July marks the start of the third phase, which allows 'some' hospitality businesses to reopen.

Johnson is due to seek advice from experts and finalise the changes today, before seeking approval from his Cabinet and outlining the plans to parliament on Tuesday.

At the same time, the Government is also set to publish detailed guidance to ensure these companies are “Covid secure”.

A reduction in the two-metre distancing rule would be a significant milestone for the hospitality sector.

There have been urgent calls in recent weeks from both MPs and those within the industry for it to be halved, in order to allow as many businesses as possible to be able to reopen sustainably. 

Last week the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said that failure to reduce the contact gap would mean 25,000 English pubs, or two thirds of the overall total, would be forced to stay closed post lockdown with no hope of reopening.

Meanwhile, a survey of 2,000 people from across the UK that was carried out by wine distributor Berkmann Wine Cellars, shows that frequent restaurant-goers are particularly receptive to the change, with 59% ready to embrace such a move.

In total, 51.4% of respondents said they were in favour of a reduction to one metre.

The survey revealed plenty of empathy and enthusiasm for the hospitality industry, however, it also suggests an long path to recovery, with almost half (49%) of people surveyed saying they plan to spend less in restaurants than they did before the lockdown during the first three months of reopening; and only 43% saying that going to a pub or restaurant was one of the first things they’d do when lockdown ended.

Earlier today it was reported that a survey carried out by trade body UKHospitality revealed that hospitality businesses are expecting levels of trade to be 'significantly suppressed' in the months to come​, with expectations for August 2020 showing a decline of between 78% and 65% in revenue, depending on the level of social distancing required in venues.

Relaxing the rule to one metre would bring the UK into line with the recommendations of The World Health Organization (WHO).

Other nations of the UK have yet to change their two-metre guidance. However, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her counterpart in Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, are reported to also be considering a reduction.

Related topics: Business & Legislation

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