Posted: Mon 22nd Jun 2020

Wales will follow England in reducing social distancing rule to one metre if the science stacks up

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jun 22nd, 2020


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Wales will follow England in reducing the 2m social distancing rule if advice from scientists and medical experts say it is safe to do so.

It is expected that Boris Johnson will announce tomorrow a reduction in the 2m rule.

Media reports suggest the prime minister will look at advice from experts today and finalise changes to the rule, he will seek approval on plans from his Cabinet on Tuesday.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “The reason we are able to move forward this week is that the vast majority of people have taken steps to contain the virus.

The more we open up, the more important it is that everyone follows the social distancing rules.

We will not hesitate to put the handbrake on to stop the virus running out of control.”

It’s also expected the UK government will give the hospitality sector in England the green light to reopen on 4 July.

Many pubs and restaurants say the 2m rule makes it unviable to reopen as they would have to operate on greatly reduced capacity.

If plans go ahead, the 2m distancing rule in England will be relaxed to a ‘1 metre plus’ rule with extra measures needed if people got too close. 

At today’s regular Welsh government briefing first minister Mark Drakeford responded to a question about the possible relaxation on the 2m rule in Wales, he said:

“We put the health of the public first, of course, we will follow the advice that the prime minister will be relying upon for any announcement that he makes.

If the advice we get through our scientific networks and through our chief medical officer is that it is possible to amend the advice we gave and things can open safely of course that is what we would want to do.

But we will assess that for ourselves, we will make decisions in a way that are right for Wales and the lens through which all decisions we make will be taken are whether or not it is possible to do things in a way that continues to provide the safety of the public.”

Darren Millar MS the Welsh Conservative Shadow Covid Recovery Minister, said:

 “The relaxation of social distancing rules from two metres to one metre would be a significant gamechanger for us here in Wales.

 Countless businesses, transport operators, and other enterprises across the country are simply not viable with a two-metre social distance rule, but a one-metre rule would throw them a lifeline.

 It seems to be perfectly safe and sensible to relax the rule while still protecting lives and livelihoods, so I urge the Welsh Government to take stock of the evidence and review the two-metre rule in Wales as soon as possible.”

You can view the full briefing fro today, plus the Q&A session on the below video:

 

Boris Johnson is expected to announce tomorrow a reduction in the two-metre social distancing rule.

Labour have said that “under certain circumstances” they would support moving to one metre.

In line with the government’s roadmap for lifting the lockdown, 4 July marks the start of “phase three” when some hospitality businesses can reopen, likely to include pubs and restaurants.

 

The government says it will publish detailed guidance to ensure these companies are “COVID secure”.

The prime minister is due to seek advice from experts and finalise the changes on Monday, before seeking approval from his Cabinet and outlining the plans to parliament on Tuesday.

Other nations of the UK have yet to change their two-metre guidance.

But both Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her counterpart in Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, are considering a reduction.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “The reason we are able to move forward this week is because the vast majority of people have taken steps to contain the virus.

“The more we open up, the more important it is that everyone follows the social distancing rules.

“We will not hesitate to put the handbrake on to stop the virus running out of control.”

James Brokenshire, the security minister, told Sky News the government’s review of the two-metre rule would “fuse” both scientific and economic views about lifting lockdown measures.

The government has previously spoken about being “guided” by scientists in its approach to the coronavirus pandemic.

 
Image: Boris Johnson is due to seek advice from experts and finalise the changes on Monday

Mr Brokenshire suggested a reduction in the two-metre rule could also be combined with other measures, such as face coverings or separating barriers, being introduced for some settings.

“I understand that real urgency, that desire – whether it’s for haircuts, whether it’s to go out and get a meal to be able to socialise,” he said.

“It’s just that clarity on doing that in a way that does not impact or risk further issues around public health and, obviously, the second spike that we are determined to avoid.

“So there is a lot that will be brought together in terms of all of those different elements.”

In Germany, which began lifting lockdown measures in May, the reproductive rate of coronavirus leapt to 2.88 on Sunday.

The R number refers to the reproductive rate of the disease and any figure above one means the number of cases will increase exponentially.

Mr Brokenshire said the UK government would be “informed by experience from around the world” as it continues to lift lockdown measures.

He added: “That issue on the second spike, that issue on the impact on the transmission rate – the R rate – is absolutely critical and why we are doing this with great care, with great thought and learning from experiences around the world.”

 
Image: The pilot test could be become an alternative to the throat swab pictured

It comes as a new pilot for a “swab-free” coronavirus test launches in Southampton.

Participants will be able to get a test every week by transferring saliva into a pot at home.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new technique is less complicated than using a swab and “could potentially make it even easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home”.

“This trial will also help us learn if routine, at-home testing could pick up cases of the virus earlier,” he added.

On the coronavirus lockdown, Mr Hancock told Sky News that the government is “on track” to ease restrictions further from 4 July.

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