Ministers are preparing to drop the two-metre rule by the end of the month after Rishi Sunak hailed the ‘positive impact’ it would have on business and jobs.
Boris Johnson has launched a ‘comprehensive review’ of the strict regulation, which critics say is crippling businesses and making it harder for schools to reopen.
The rule will be reconsidered by a panel of economists and scientists, with a decision set to come before the expected reopening of pubs and restaurants from July 4.
The two-metre rules will be reconsidered by a panel of economists and scientists after Rishi Sunak hailed the ‘positive impact’ dropping it would have on business and jobs. Pictured: A shop window sticker in Liverpool asks customers to follow social distancing guidelines
Mr Sunak confirmed yesterday the Government would ‘take a fresh look’ at the regulation and suggested the decision was for ministers, not scientists, to take.
He told Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister has put in place a comprehensive review of the two-metre rule. That review will involve the scientists, economists and others so that we can look at it in the round.
‘I know that of course it’s the difference between three-quarters and maybe a third of pubs opening, for example, so it’s important that we look at it.’
The Chancellor said any decision on ending the lockdown before a vaccine was ready had an element of ‘risk’, but pointed out that other countries have lower distance requirements and were still managing to contain the virus.
‘Now that we have made good progress in suppressing the virus, we’re at a different stage of this epidemic than we were at the beginning and that enables us to take a fresh look at this,’ he said.
‘I can very much understand the impact, the positive impact it will have on business’s ability to reopen and thereby maintain the jobs that they have.’
The new distancing review will take advice from experts including the chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. The panel will also include behavioural scientists and economists.
Mr Sunak also suggested that the Government would be prepared to override the views of Sir Patrick and Professor Whitty if they did not agree with a reduction.
A ‘comprehensive review’ of the strict regulation has now been launched by the Prime Minister, with a decision set to come before July 4. Pictured: A Sainsbury’s store asks shoppers to keep two metres away from each other
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that scientists had made clear there is a ‘different degree of risk at different levels’, and the decision on relaxing the rule was ‘ultimately’ for ministers to make.
He said: ‘Much as I would like to see it reduced – everyone would like to see that reduced from an economic perspective – we can only do that if it’s safe and responsible to do so.’
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘If other countries are doing it successfully, we need to move now.’
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said Labour would support a relaxation of the 2m rule if the evidence showed it was ‘the right time to do it’.
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