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Sunak confirms “urgent comprehensive review” of 2 metre rule

Published:  15 June, 2020

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed PM Boris Johnson has ordered a “comprehensive review” on the 2 metre social distancing rule.

Speaking on both Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday and BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Sunak said Johnson had put in place a “comprehensive review” of the 2 metre rule.

The Chancellor added that “the PM has always said we keep everything under review as we evolve through this crisis to see what we're able to look at and that review will involve scientists, economists and others in the round”.

Underlining the “impact it has on business”, the Chancellor told Ridge the 2 metre rule was “the difference between maybe three-quarters and a third of pubs opening and so it is important that we look at it”. 

“Now that we have made good progress in suppressing the virus we are at a different stage of this epidemic than we were at the beginning, and that enables us to take a fresh look at this.”

Pointing to other countries, such as Denmark and Norway, which have moved from the 2 metre rule to “something less”, Sunak added it was now “important that we look at it comprehensively in the round and that’s what we will do urgently”. 

When asked by Ridge if this was something he wanted to happen, Sunak said: “I can very much understand the positive impact it will have on businesses ability to open and thereby maintain the jobs that they have and make sure all the people that work for them can come back to those jobs and remain employed, and that’s really important to me.”

However, he stressed, at the same time we “must make sure that it’s safe to do so”.

“We need to make sure that the science is suggestive that we're in a place where we could make any changes, that would be a safe thing to do and the responsible thing to do."

Sunak’s comments were followed later yesterday by Johnson dropping his biggest hint yet that the 2 metre rule could be reduced saying there was now “more margin for manoeuvre” at a visit to the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre to urge consumers to bring life back to the economy. 

Both Sunak and the PM also stressed it was “safe” for the public to go shopping today (15 June) as non-essential retail starts to reopen.

The World Health Organisation has recommended maintaining a distance of 1 metre. 

Last week, it was revealed that Johnson was facing increased pressure to axe the 2 metre rule, with Sunak reported to have told a meeting of the 1922 Committee, the backbench parliamentary group of the Conservative Party in the UK House of Commons, that he believes the 2 metre social distancing rule should be cut.