Discussing the two-metre distancing measure on Sky News’ Kay Burley@Breakfast show on Tuesday 2 June, Clarke stressed the Government believed the two-metre rule minimised the risk of Covid-19 to the British public while also allowing them to continue their day-to-day lives.
“We’re not doing this arbitrarily,” he told presenter Kay Burley. “We’re doing it because that’s the advice we’ve been given.”
Clarke’s comments follow the release of a new study, published in medical journal The Lancet, which revealed maintaining a two-metre distance from others is twice as effective at preventing the spread of Coronavirus than a one-metre gap.
However, the same research – funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – also states that a one-metre gap reduced the risk of transmission to 2.6%.
Senior Tories call for cut
Clarke’s revelation comes less than a week after The Morning Advertiser (MA) reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “optimistic” about pubs reopening earlier than the initially slated 4 July date – and mentioned reducing the current two metre social distancing rule in the hospitality sector.
Johnson told the Liaison Committee: “My own hope is as we make progress in getting the virus down, in reducing the incidence, we will able to reduce that distance, which will be particularly valuable on transport and clearly the hospitality sector.”
What’s more, it’s been reported that a number of senior Conservative MPs including former business secretary Greg Clark, former Brexit secretary David Davis and former chancellor Norman Lamont, have urged the Prime Minister to cut back on its two-metre social distancing rule to protect businesses.
Two metres ‘not viable in pubs’
As reported by MA, a number of pub sector stakeholders have called for social distancing measures in the UK to be scaled back to bring it into line with WHO guidance – which recommends maintaining at least one metre (3ft) distance and has been adopted by countries including Denmark, France, Lithuania, Singapore and China.
Additionally, nations such as Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Australia and Belgium have all implemented a 1.5-metre policy, with the UK joined by Canada and Spain at a two-metre distance.
“A strict two-metre social distancing requirement would not be viable for the vast majority of pubs,” according to the British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin. “We believe most pubs wouldn’t be able to open and operate with such conditions and those that tried would find it incredibly costly and impractical to do so.
“Adjusting social distancing requirements to one metre could make it far more feasible for pubs to reopen. We are developing what practical and safe social distancing measures could work in a pub that reflect Government guidance.”
When asked why the British Government had implemented a social distancing policy double the distance recommended by WHO, a spokesperson from Public Health England (PHE) told MA: “In the early days of Covid-19 outbreak, PHE adopted a more precautionary approach than WHO’s definition of a close contact.
“As the outbreak continued, we further strengthened the guidance on social distancing and stated that people should maintain a distance of at least two metres.”
What’s more, according to a poll of hospitality industry bosses carried out by HIM and MCA on behalf of MA, of the 302 pub responses received, 39% said it would be more viable to operate with one-metre social distancing rules in place.
A further 37% of respondents said it would ‘maybe’ be more viable, while 21% said no and 4% said they didn’t know.
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