BORIS Johnson and his top scientists gave the strongest hint yet that they will relax two-metre social distancing rules.
The PM told a member of the public who asked whether it would be cut to one-metre: “Watch this space”.
He is currently doing a review of the rule, which will take in research from scientists and economists.
Pubs, restaurants and hospitality venues have begged the PM to consider lowering it down to one metre in a desperate bid to stay afloat after the virus pandemic.
Millions of jobs could be lost if they cannot open to full capacity, businesses have warned.
Boris said tonight: “We are getting there.
“I know people are very impatient. Watch this space, we absolutely hear you.
“As we depress the numbers, reduce the incidents, I think we will also have a strong case.
“I ope to be able to do that. We cant do it yet, we need to continue to make progress.”
And the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance gave the PM more wriggle room to move on the crucial rule by pointing out there are other measures that could be brought in alongside the change to lower the risk.
He told the coronavirus press conference: “Two metres is safer than one metre, but it’s not an absolute, it’s a relative and obviously the closer you get the riskier it is, so it’s a risk assessment.”
He said other steps to reduce risk include being side-by-side, back-to-back, in a good ventilated space and wearing face coverings.
Sir Patrick added: “There are times in which this can be changed and that evidence of course can then be the basis of a policy decision on what the right distance is that should be mandated or put forward as the rule to follow.”
Mr Johnson signalled he will announce the decision on whether to relax social distancing within the next fortnight – before the July 4 target date for reopening large parts of the hospitality sector.
He said: “We will be saying more about what we can do more generally to relax social distancing rules as we come up to July 4.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted the Government’s review of the rule would be completed by July 4, when pubs, restaurants and cafes are due to reopen.
But former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Forsyth warned: “We cannot wait weeks for a review.
“Failure to act now will see the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, which will hang like an albatross around the neck of the administration.”