World News

UK: UK government to relax two-metre distancing rule amid warnings from scientists


The UK government is relaxing the current two-metre distancing rule to “one-metre plus” in England, despite the warnings of some scientists that coronavirus cases remain too high to loosen restrictions. The new guidance comes into effect as of 4 July, when some other restrictions will also be eased.

“Where it is possible to keep two metres apart, people should,” prime minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons earlier today. “But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of one-metre-plus.” This means keeping a metre apart, while taking other precautions, such as avoiding face-to-face seating, wearing face coverings and using hand sanitiser, Johnson went on to explain. Businesses will be encouraged to implement the use of protective screens, change office layouts and shift patterns and improve ventilation, for example.

At the same time, numerous venues will be allowed to reopen in England, including pubs, museums, cinemas, hotels, campsites and hairdressers. And members of two separate households will be allowed to meet in any setting, including indoors.

The announcement came a day after warnings were published by Independent SAGE – a group of scientists operating independently of the government. Reducing distancing to one metre, indoors, will “effectively end” social distancing, say the researchers, who also point out that 97 per cent of super-spreading events occur in indoor spaces. The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has also warned that some countries are “seeing an upswing in cases as they reopen their societies and economies”.

Other coronavirus news

The number of excess deaths in the UK since mid-March now stands at 65,700, according to an analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics by the Financial Times. Excess deaths are a calculation of how many more deaths have occurred than would normally be expected, and include deaths from any cause.

An ongoing survey by the WHO suggests routine healthcare has been diminished in many countries as a result of the pandemic. Of the 82 countries that have responded so far, almost three-quarters report that dental and rehabilitation services have been disrupted, while two-thirds report disruptions to immunisation programmes and treatment for non-infectious diseases, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing yesterday. Mental health services, antenatal care, cancer diagnosis and treatment and services for children have also been disrupted in more than half of the countries.

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— New Scientists