Covid 19 - What you need to know - Pressure builds on 2m social distancing rule

03 Jun

It has been widely reported that Greg Clark, the chairman of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, has written to the Prime Minister asking that he "urgently review" the social distancing rule.

The MP’s concerns are that if the 2m rule is still in place when non-essential shops and restaurants open, it could result in people losing their jobs. In an interview with The Telegraph, he said:

"The difference between two metres and 1.5 metres may seem small but it can be the difference between people being able to go to work and losing their jobs."

Mr. Clark appears to rely, in part, on comments from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies’ (SAGE) Environmental and Modelling Group in their report entitled “Environmental Influence on Transmission” as well as examples of other countries which have recommended social distancing at a distance below 2m.

The SAGE report, a link to which can be found above, is lengthy however when considering the effectiveness of the 2m rule states:

It is likely that in some cases it will be possible to put control measures in place to enable distancing at less than 2m. This is likely to be more straightforward where people are not face-to-face or are only at a closer distance for a very short period of time. Face coverings, local ventilation control, additional local cleaning and physical partitioning are possible options that could enable this. These options would need further exploration to determine what is most appropriate and where they could be applied.

During a meeting of the Liaison Committee, to which the Prime Minister gave evidence, Mr. Clark questioned the PM further on this issue. A recording of the exchange can be found here, and the pertinent questions start at approximately 16:28:18.

Mr. Clark asked the PM to instruct SAGE to review their advice in respect of the 2m rule before the 16th June (when further relaxation for the retail sector are expected). The PM confirmed he has already done so and expressed his ‘Own hope’ that, should further progress be made in tackling the pandemic, that a reduction would be possible. He accepted a reduction would be particularly helpful for the transport and hospitality sectors.

Whether the measures mentioned are practical, economic, or feasible in a ‘pub’ environment, is less clear. However enforcing a strict 2m distance between all customers in a pub environment will be very challenging.

Law correct at the date of publication.
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