THE UK’s two metre rule is here to stay despite warnings from businesses it could cripple them.
Business leaders have claimed companies will go bankrupt if the rule is not relaxed but it has now been endorsed by the Sage scientific panel.
According to The Times, the experts have told ministers it has to stay as changing it could be confusing.
Sage estimates that six seconds of exposure at one metre posed the same risk as a minute at two metres.
Having someone cough on you from two metres is as dangerous as talking for 30 minutes at the same distance as one minute at one metre.
Yesterday Downing Street insisted it had no plans to change the “sensible and safe distance”.
Other experts have demanded greater flexibility and argued that allowing people to be closer for shorter periods is just as safe.
Pub landlords have demanded that the two-metre social distancing rule is halved because it could leave over 37,000 boozers unable to open.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, warned that “at two metres you’re probably looking at only 20 per cent of pubs being able to operate” but a one-metre rule “would put the majority of pubs back in play”.
Edwin Morgan, of the Institute of Directors, claimed “maintaining two metres’ distancing will be difficult for many firms, and impossible for some”.
Keeping the scheme was also bashed by Robert Dingwall of Nottingham Trent University, who sits on the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group.
He said: “Sage are supposed to be focused on the science — which does not support the two-metre rule.
“I don’t see a problem with changing the message or that there is necessarily any likely confusion.”
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith this week claimed Britain needed to slash the distance people must be apart to get the nation back in work.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the prominent backbencher warned unemployment depends on how quickly the economy starts back up again.
He said: “We need to get that moving as quick as possible and I’ve certainly been arguing that for some weeks now.
“We’re the only country certainly in Europe that I know of that uses the two-metre rule.
“I think when it comes to the hospitality sector, I think we do need to look at it very carefully.
“So we do need to look at how they manage that process and give them some flexibility.”
Current Government guidance says you must be two metres away from anyone not in your household.
The World Health Organisation recommends at least one metre, which is the rule followed in Spain, Italy, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway.
In Germany, Poland and the Netherlands the distance is 1.5 metres, with just the UK, Switzerland and US staying two metres apart.
Earlier this month the Government’s chief scientific adviser warned that coronavirus transmission is significantly higher at one metre apart.