Boris Johnson reveals there is a ‘good chance’ current social distancing rules will be SCRAPPED on June 21 as hospitality bosses say a return to unrestricted trading is ‘critical’ to help pubs and bars ‘come off life support’
- Boris Johnson said there is ‘good chance’ current social distancing rules will end
- Prime Minister said one metre plus rule could be ‘dispensed with’ from June 21
- Came as hospitality bosses said unrestricted trading ‘critical’ for pubs to recover
Boris Johnson today revealed there is a ‘good chance’ that current social distancing rules will be scrapped on June 21.
The Prime Minister said he hopes it will be possible to axe the existing one-metre plus rule when the nation reaches the final step in his lockdown exit roadmap.
His comments came as hospitality bosses said a return to unrestricted trading is ‘critical’ and will mean that pubs, bars and restaurants can ‘come off life support’.
Ditching the one-metre plus rule will allow hospitality venues as well as places like theatres to open at full capacity for the first time in more than a year.
It was reported overnight that one-way systems, screens and mask-wearing while moving around could remain in place in hospitality settings beyond June 21 but customer numbers will no longer be limited.
Audiences in theatres and cinemas will have to wear face coverings during performances, while there will be strict guidance on ventilation and staggered entry, according to The Times.
Boris Johnson today revealed there is a ‘good chance’ that current social distancing rules will be scrapped on June 21
Hospitality bosses said a return to unrestricted trading from June 21 is ‘critical’ and will mean that pubs, bars and restaurants can ‘come off life support’
What are the current rules on social distancing in England?
The start of the pandemic saw the Government impose a broad two metre social distancing rule which applied across all of society.
But that rule was amended when Boris Johnson ended the first lockdown last year on July 4.
The Government continued to advise people who are not from the same household to stay two metres apart.
But it also introduced a new ‘one metre plus’ rule for circumstances where a two-metre distance could not be stuck to.
The ‘plus’ represents taking a precautionary measure such as wearing a face mask or sitting side-by-side rather than face-to-face.
Both rules are still in effect today but the PM has said he is hoping to be able to scrap the measures from June 21, the final stage in his lockdown exit roadmap.
Speaking during a visit to Hartlepool, Mr Johnson said: ‘As things stand, and the way things are going, with the vaccine rollout going the way that it is – we have done 50 million jabs as I speak to you today, quarter of the adult population, one in four have had two jabs.
‘You are seeing the results of that really starting to show up in the epidemiology.
‘I think that we will be able to go ahead, feels like May 17 is going to be good.
‘But it also looks to me as though June 21 we’ll be able to say social distancing as we currently have to do it, the one-metre plus, I think we have got a good chance of being able to dispense with the one-metre plus from June 21.
‘That is still dependent on the data, we can’t say it categorically yet, we have got to look at the epidemiology as we progress, we have got to look at where we get to with the disease. But that’s what it feels like to me right now.’
Mr Johnson’s comments came after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday said ‘some safeguards’ would have to stay in place beyond the June 21 date, such as continued use of masks and physical distancing.
Last month, Government scientific advisers said the public should be able to remove face masks over the summer as vaccines do the heavy lifting in controlling Covid-19 – but they cautioned that masks and possibly other measures may be needed next autumn and winter if cases surge.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said the industry would need to ‘wait to see the full detail of plans as any restrictions in venues will continue to impact revenue and business viability’.
She added: ‘A return to unrestricted trading on June 21 is critical and will mean hospitality businesses (can) come off life support and be viable for the first time in almost 16 months.
‘We urge the Government to confirm reopening dates and these plans at the earliest opportunity, which will boost confidence and allow companies to step up planning and bring staff back.’
Mr Johnson said a decision on scrapping the current social distancing rules will be ‘dependent on the data, we can’t say it categorically yet’. Diners are pictured in Soho in central London on April 30
The PM said the success of the UK’s vaccination programme is ‘really starting to show up in the epidemiology’. Soho in central London is pictured on May 1
A spokesman for the UK Cinema Association indicated that the organisation hopes face coverings will not be a continued requirement.
He said: ‘We strongly believe that our exemplary record on safety – with not a single case of Covid traced back to a UK venue – and our ability to manage the movement of cinema-goers in modern, highly ventilated indoor environments offer ample evidence that any relaxation from June 21 can be undertaken safely without the need for further ongoing restrictions, including any requirement for face coverings.’
A Cabinet Office spokesman pointed back to the wording in the PM’s roadmap which states that the Government ‘will complete a review of social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission’.
The review’s findings ‘will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on one-metre-plus, face masks and other measures may be lifted’.