One-metre social distancing rule may be scrapped next month – Johnson
Boris Johnson has raised the prospect that the one-metre social distancing rule that has been key to limiting the spread of coronavirus could be scrapped next month.
The Prime Minister also indicated on Monday that he may not go ahead with the introduction of coronavirus health certificates, which could require proof of vaccination or negative tests before entrance to certain venues.
As he approved the next major easing of restrictions in England, Mr Johnson said the nation remains “on track” for the final step towards lifting all legal restrictions as planned on June 21.
But the Prime Minister went further, to suggest it may be possible to scrap the one-metre plus social distancing rule from that point as well.
“When it comes to social distancing from June 21, I look at the data very carefully and I think at the moment, it looks to me as though we may be able to dispense with the one-metre plus rule,” he told a Downing Street press conference.
“That’s not yet decided, it’s not yet clear, we will have to wait and see.”
While mask-wearing may continue in some form, it was not immediately clear what other advice to limit Covid-19’s spread could remain in place after June 21.
Mr Johnson indicated he would resist pressure to ease restrictions more quickly than planned, despite the success of the vaccine roll-out and the current measures.
He said next Monday’s easing is a “very considerable unlocking” and stressed the need for caution and the need for “time to see the effect of each successive stage on the road map”.
But the Prime Minister also said he is “confident we will be able to go further” on the road map, raising the prospect that Covid health certificates may not be required.
“To give business more time to prepare we will be saying more later this month about exactly what the world will look like and what role there could be, if any, for certification and social distancing,” he said.
Mr Johnson added: “I’m optimistic that things will get back much closer to normality, let me put it like that, but clearly people are going to continue to want to exercise their own judgment, their own discretion, for a long while to come.”
Standing beside the Prime Minister, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance suggested that transmission will be reduced by other means after June 21.
He cited better ventilation and a greater proportion of people working from home where possible, as ways in which there will be a “residual reduction in transmission”.
“There will still be behaviours that we will all demonstrate which means that contacts probably won’t be back to pre-pandemic levels,” Sir Patrick said.
But Mr Johnson indicated that cities and towns will thrive again with social interaction.
“The more people can communicate remotely with brilliant electronic devices, the more able they are to meet other people over the internet or through the ether, the more reasons they actually find to meet face to face,” he said.
“I’m pretty certain – and I know this is contested – but I’m pretty certain that eventually our town centres and our city centres are going to be full of bustle, full of people wanting to interact again in the way that they always have done.”
Senior backbencher Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown sceptics, welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement on restrictions from June 21.
“We believe the data does, and will continue, to support the ending of social distancing completely,” the MP said.
It is thanks to our loyal readers that we can continue to provide the trusted news, analysis and insight that matters to you. For unlimited access to our unrivalled local reporting, you can take out a subscription here and help support the work of our dedicated team of reporters.