Boris Johnson’s top scientific adviser says 2 metre rule can be changed safely


BORIS Johnson’s top scientific adviser has said the 2 metre rule could be relaxed safely.

Sir Patrick Vallance said last night the social distancing rule was “not an absolute cut-off that never changes.”

Sir Patrick Vallance said last night the social distancing rule was “not an absolute cut-off that never changes.”

The PM yesterday was under increasing pressure to cut the 2 metre rule after he announced a review that wouldn’t have its findings ready for two weeks.

Sir Patrick said last night: “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.”

He said if a relaxed version of the rule can be used in combination with other measures such as face coverings, it would be safer if infection rates continued to fall.

The PM acknowledged the far-reaching effects of relaxing the social distancing rule.

He said: “I am all too aware the 2 metre rule has big implications for schools and many other sectors.

“I absolutely hear those concerns, I will do everything in my power to get us back to normal as soon as possible.

“We must proceed carefully.”

Many pubs have said they wouldn’t be able to open their doors once they are allowed to if there is not a relaxation of the rule.

The PM said there was a “strong case” for changing the rule but “we can’t do it yet”.

He said: “As we get the numbers down…then the statistical likelihood of any of us actually being next to somebody, whether two metres, one metre, whatever distance, who has coronavirus is going down the whole time.”

Sir Patrick and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty have stressed the relaxing of the rule is a political decision that must be made by ministers.

But ministers are keen to be seen to be “following the science” and have experts sign off on the change.

Sir Patrick said last night that “two metres is safer than one metre” but added: “It’s not an absolute, it’s a relative, and obviously the closer you get the more at risk you are, so it’s a risk assessment.”

He said: “When you look at the incidence, the number of people getting the infection every day, or the prevalence, number of people with the disease at any one time, currently numbers are something like 6 out of 10,000 people have the infection at the moment.

“You can see the probability gets quite low and therefore you can start to think about ways in which you can manage the distance in certain circumstances.”

According to the British Beer and Pub Association, as many as 37,000 boozers could stay closed with the rule.

Tory grandee William Hague told the PM yesterday the time to act was now, if he wanted to avoid disaster.

The PM will face even more pressure today, as senior backbench Conservative MPs prepare to tell him he must relax the rule or risk widespread unemployment, according to The Times.

Mr Johnson will meet the executive of the 1922 committee today to discuss plans to reboot the economy.

The MPs are expected to push the PM to help pubs, cafes and restaurants recover by bringing the 2 metre rule down.

The hospitality sector is expected to be allowed to gradually start to reopen from July 4.