REVEALED: Scientists urge No10 to increase social distancing to THREE METRES in desperate bid to stop spread of Covid-19… as Matt Hancock blasts people for flouting lockdown rules
- Boris Johnson is under pressure to increase the social distancing gap
- Sage scientific advisory panel want measure raised to effectively three metres
- Matt Hancock slammed individuals flouting social distancing rules at coronavirus press briefing today
Boris Johnson is under pressure to increase the social distancing gap to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Leading members of the Sage scientific advisory panel want the measure raised from ‘one metre plus’ to ‘two metres plus’.
In practice this would change the limit to three metres – nearly 10ft. The drastic proposal came as a furious Matt Hancock denounced individuals who flout social distancing rules.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference the Health Secretary said that he would ‘not rule out further action if needed.’
He was backed by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, who sits on Sage and said it was time to ‘double down’ on Covid curbs – including outdoor contact.
Asked if a three-metre rule would be imposed in England, a Downing Street spokesman said last night: ‘There are no current plans to change social distancing rules. However, everything is kept under review.’
As Boris Johnson also warned of tougher Covid-19 curbs if existing restrictions were ignored:
- Another 529 virus deaths were recorded yesterday, up from 407 a week earlier, with 46,169 new cases;
- Seven vaccination hubs came into use, including London’s ExCeL and Birmingham’s Millennium Point;
- Morrisons said it would ban shoppers refusing to wear face coverings;
- Derbyshire Police cancelled £200 fines for two women penalised for driving five miles to go for a walk;
- Nearly a quarter of care home residents have received their first shot of Covid vaccine;
- Hospitals started rationing oxygen as it emerged that one in four coronavirus patients is under 55.
Boris Johnson is under pressure from members of the Sage scientific advisory panel to increase the social distancing gap to stop the spread of coronavirus
The distance was set at two metres in March after experts said coronavirus was up to ten times more transmissible at one metre than at two. Now experts want the public to maintain the distance on public transport, in supermarket lines and while out and about
The Daily Mail has been told that several members of Sage say the lockdown needs to be even tougher than the first one in March last year.
The idea of a Chinese-style ban on residents leaving their homes was raised at one meeting.
Ministers are furious that some people have been using their right to daily exercise simply as an excuse to meet friends for a coffee in the park.
One source said: ‘If it means limiting people to a single one-hour walk on their own once a week that is what we must do. We cannot let a few selfish idiots put the whole country in danger.’
It is feared that the failure to observe the restrictions is fuelling the number of deaths and risks hospitals becoming overwhelmed.
Increasing the social distancing rule to three metres is seen as one way of stopping the spread of the new variant of the virus, which can be passed on more easily.
Britain has today recorded a further 529 Covid deaths – marking a 30 per cent rise on the 407 reported on this day last week. It is also the deadliest Monday since April 20 when 570 people lost their lives
Opponents of the move say it would have little impact, cause more confusion and be a logistical nightmare.
Two-metre signs have been painted on pavements across the nation, with similar notices found in tens of thousands of shops, factories, offices and public places.
Changing them all would add to the soaring cost of fighting the pandemic.
Supporters claim the benefit in saving lives and protecting the NHS means the move is worth it. They argue it is a response to the new variant which is thought to be up to be 70 per cent more transmissible.
If it goes ahead it would be the Government’s third policy on social distancing.
The distance was set at two metres in March after experts said coronavirus was up to ten times more transmissible at one metre than at two.
But it was reduced to ‘one metre plus’ in July after the first lockdown – mainly to make it easier for restaurants and cafes to reopen.
Two-metre signs have been painted on pavements across the nation, with similar notices found in tens of thousands of shops, factories, offices and public places
A ‘two metre plus’ rule would in practice mean staying three metres apart – nearly 10ft – unless steps were taken to limit the danger of transmission, such as screens.
Social distancing gaps vary around the world.
In China, Hong Kong and Singapore, which were successful in controlling the pandemic, the gap was one metre.
However, they imposed other, far stricter, rules including curfews. Spain and Canada followed the two-metre rule.
The three other home nations have different versions of the two-metre rule.
In Scotland people are advised to keep two metres apart and in Wales they are told to stay two metres apart unless it is not practical, with young children exempt.
The gap in Northern Ireland came down to one metre but is two again.
Professor Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia said: ‘Risk declines the further you are away from someone.
‘So three metres will reduce risk somewhat compared to two metres – but it is difficult to say how much and whether that would make a big difference. I suspect the main issue is people not sticking to the two-metre rule.’
Mr Hancock warned against trying to ‘push the boundaries’ on exercise, adding: ‘If too many people break this rule we are going to have a look at it. Don’t say you are exercising if really you are just socialising.’
He said the two-metre rule had to be obeyed, not seen ‘as a limit to be challenged’.
Obey the rules or they’ll get tougher: PM’s warning as Whitty says we’re at the worst point of the pandemic
ByJason Groves Political Editor For The Daily Mail
Lockdown restrictions will be tightened again if the public flout the current rules, Boris Johnson warned yesterday.
The Prime Minister said ‘complacency’ among the public could plunge the country into a deeper crisis at what was already a ‘very perilous moment’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night reinforced his message, saying so-called support bubbles were the only lockdown exemption guaranteed to stay.
The warnings came amid mounting Government concern that the third lockdown may fail to bring the latest spike in coronavirus infections under control.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said Britain was ‘now at the worst point of this epidemic’ and urged people to stop seeing friends and family, even in the limited circumstances still allowed, saying every ‘unnecessary’ contact risked spreading the virus.
He added: ‘The key thing to understand is that when you meet people from another household under any circumstances – and they’re very often your friends, your family – but those are the kind of situations where the virus is passed on.’
He added: ‘It doesn’t care who you are, it doesn’t care whether they’re your friends. If you meet someone from another household, the virus has an opportunity to be transmitted.’
Ministers are considering a number of further restrictions, including closing the exemption that allows two people from different households to exercise together outdoors.
Government sources yesterday said Mr Johnson was ‘reluctant’ to scrap the exemption, which provides one of the few remaining lifelines for the lonely.
But there are fears it is muddying the ‘stay at home’ message, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman yesterday struggling to clarify whether two friends can take drinks with them on a walk.
Mr Hancock said the exemption was under review as it was being abused. ‘We have been seeing large groups… and you should be two metres apart from the other person. If there are too many people breaking this rule then we are going to have to look at it.
‘But, I don’t want to do that because for many people, being able to go for a walk with a friend… is their only social contact.’
Pre-school nurseries and places of worship could also face restrictions if cases continue to rise – but Mr Hancock said support bubbles were sacrosanct.
The arrangement allows those living alone or with babies to link up with one other household for support. The Prime Minister and his fiancee Carrie Symonds are among those who have taken advantage of the system, forming a support bubble with Miss Symonds’s mother following the birth of their son Wilfred in April.
Ministers hope the blunt messaging on the NHS crisis and tougher rule enforcement will persuade people to comply with the letter and spirit of the lockdown.
But Labour yesterday called for the rules to be tightened, including the closure of nurseries.
Mr Hancock last night suggested a major relaxation of the rules was unlikely until all over-60s have been vaccinated – which the new plan suggests won’t be until at least April.
He said it was only at this point that ministers could be absolutely sure that hospital admissions from the virus would start to fall.
But the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, who oppose lockdown, last night said it should be lifted as soon as the 13million most vulnerable are vaccinated – which the Prime Minister pledged to achieve by February 15.
So what is allowed?
GOVERNMENT rules state that ‘you should not travel outside your local area’ for exercise.
However, what does and does not constitute ‘local’ has been up for debate.
At yesterday’s Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked if Britons were allowed to exercise seven miles from home.
He replied: ‘It is OK to go if you went for a long walk and ended up seven miles from home, that is OK, but you should stay local.’
He added: ‘You should not go from one side of the country to the other, potentially taking the virus with you, because remember one in three people who have the virus don’t know they have it because they don’t have symptoms.
‘It is OK to go for a long walk or a cycle ride or to exercise, but stay local.’
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