Boris Johnson said yesterday that he is “looking for the moment” to relax the two-meter social distance rule.
He raised hopes that the Prime Minister could move to a meter rule in a few weeks after a combination of “scary” economic statistics and a drop in the number of coronavirus infections.
Despite their reservations, government scientists believe that any decision to reduce the recommended distance is a political decision, giving Mr. Johnson the green light to reduce it.
They told ministers that companies could introduce new rules, such as regular breaks and requiring workers to sit side by side, to make it safer for people to be less than a meter away. one another.
It happened when the magnitude of the blow to the British economy was revealed yesterday.
Boris Johnson (pictured wearing PPE) said yesterday that he was “looking for the moment” to relax the two-meter social distance rule
Figures from the National Statistics Office showed that British national production fell 20.4% in April, when millions of people had to stay at home.
At the same time, it appeared that the average number of new infections per day had dropped from 5,600 to 4,500 since the end of April.
The two statistics intensified calls to Johnson to move to World Health Organization guidelines, which say the social distance should only be 1 meter or 1.5 m.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack yesterday became Prime Minister of the Cabinet to publicly demand that the distance be reduced to one meter “as soon as possible”, saying the move was vital to “open up the economy”.
And Conservative MP Damian Green, who was Theresa May’s de facto deputy, said, “The latest infection rates are encouraging and the economic numbers are scary, so I think it’s time to set a date for go to a meter. The document released yesterday by the Sage government’s scientific advisory committee suggested that companies should have the freedom to choose how to operate safely.
He said that sitting side by side or behind another person three feet away poses a similar risk two feet face to face. He added that good ventilation in buildings can further reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
On his first public visit since being treated at the hospital for a coronavirus, Johnson said the sooner the number of infections fell, the sooner the two-meter rule could be removed. He said, “What we’re looking for is when we have the numbers – I won’t give you the numbers – but I want to see, and we’re working with the scientists, when the numbers are so low that we can really say that the two-meter rule is no longer necessary. “On the GDP figures, Mr. Johnson said,” We are a resilient economy and we will rebound. ”
He raised hopes that the Prime Minister could move to a meter rule in a few weeks after a combination of “scary” economic statistics and a drop in the number of coronavirus infections. In the photo: window sticker outside a store reminding people to distance themselves from two meters
Business leaders have warned that the current social distancing rules will make it difficult for the economy to recover quickly. Sir John Timpson, president of shoe repair chain Timpson, said: “The rule of one meter against two meters is a crucial decision – it will make a big difference to the economy. “
The British Beer and Pub Association has warned that today is the deadline if ministers are to give pubs three weeks notice to reopen on July 4. All Our Bars, an advertising management company, said, “Hospitality is socializing. You cannot “socialize” at distances of two meters. The Greene King ad chain added, “We expect to be able to accommodate about 30 percent of the trade with social distancing and this will impact the pubs that we can open at different stages, as many do will not be economically viable with social remoteness. Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said yesterday he was ready to take further steps to support the economy.
It is believed that the central bank could punish the printing of £ 100 billion in emergency money as early as next week. “We must be ready to take action, not just the Bank but more broadly, on what we can do to offset these negative long-term effects,” said Mr. Bailey.
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said of the 20.4% drop in GDP: “This is catastrophic, literally on a scale never seen before in history. The real problem is knowing what will happen next. “
Andrew Wishart, analyst at Capital Economics, added: “We have overcome the worst. But the recovery will be a long-term affair. “
Big companies warn that No10 distancing is not viable
By Claire Ellicott Political correspondent
The companies were consulted privately by ministers on how the reduction of the two-meter rule would affect them.
Industry leaders have warned them that some areas cannot operate unless the distance is relaxed to a meter.
But number 10 faces resistance from scientists on its Sage advisory committee, who would have demanded that their objections to its reduction be recorded.
In the photo: a window sticker outside a store asking customers to follow current UK government guidelines on social distancing
Experts have reportedly insisted that official minutes include fears of a higher infection rate and more deaths.
Johnson has instructed Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill to gather business views on the impact of the two-meter rule on their industries, sources said yesterday.
A document resulting from the exercise is the first evidence that Number 10 is actively studying how it can reduce distance, which the government said it was monitoring.
The consultation is being chaired by Cabinet Office Number 10 and the Treasury, who have approached businesses and other organizations to determine the effect of removing the rule.
Wear a mask if you’re at Uber
Uber drivers and passengers are scheduled to wear face covers in the UK starting Monday, the application firm minicab said.
Drivers in London will need to submit a photo of themselves to verify compliance with the new rule before they can start working. The company said it could also be rolled out across the UK.
Passengers and drivers can cancel a trip without financial penalty if the other does not wear a face covering. This policy is in line with the government’s decision to make face cover mandatory for public transport users in England from Monday.
Drivers will also be asked to confirm that they have taken additional safety measures, such as regular car disinfection and hand washing.
Text of the information box
The companies sent responses to Downing Street following a request for comment on behalf of Sir Mark last week.
A virtual meeting also took place between officials and businesses earlier this week.
According to the document, the aviation industry has warned that it will be physically impossible for it to operate with people still two meters apart.
Within one meter, however, passengers could travel and the tourism sector could reopen.
If the rule is relaxed, car factories could go from 50% to 100%.
Railway operators could operate at 40%, against 15% currently, while bus operators could increase their capacity by 35 to 40%, against 20%.
Universities could significantly increase their capacity.
University College London, which has one of the largest amphitheatres in the country that can accommodate 550 people, could grow from 50 to 250 students.
The hospitality industry has warned, however, that it is unlikely to remain afloat even if the rule is relaxed to one meter.
Industry leaders who attended the virtual meeting said officials had also said the government was facing pressure from backbenches to widen the distance, but scientists were digging their heels .
They reportedly said that Sage’s advisers had ensured that their concerns were minimized. The government plans to reopen the hotel industry on July 4.
However, many companies have said that the two-meter rule should be reduced to one meter to make it commercially viable.
They insisted that it would not be possible to impose distance inside their small rooms.
The World Health Organization says a meter is safe.
But the British government has stressed the importance of moving forward with caution.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said this week at a press conference that the two-meter rule is a political decision made on the advice of Sage.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said at a briefing in Westminster: “As with all public health councils, they are constantly being reviewed to make sure they reflect Sage’s latest advice.
“It will also be based on the latest evidence we have on the transmission of the virus. “
“Scientists are digging their heels”
You can catch him cuddling a pet
By Eleanor Hayward Health Reporter
Cuddling your dog or cat can give you a coronavirus, government scientists have warned.
An official report from the British veterinarian said that pets could carry the virus on their fur, which could spread the disease from person to person.
She said: “Close contact such as cuddling, grooming, feeding and allowing animals to share food could all allow the virus to be transferred. “
This means that if a member of a household has the virus, the animal could then pass it on to another family member.
An official report from the British veterinarian said that pets could carry the virus on their fur, which could spread the disease from person to person. In the photo: photo of a woman petting her cat
The document, prepared by the UK’s chief veterinarian, was reviewed on April 30 at a meeting of the Government’s Scientific Emergency Advisory Group (SAGE).
Only one in 1,700 infected with Covid
Only 1,700 researchers were infected with Covid-19 earlier this month, according to a large study.
Based on tests of more than 19,000 people, the Office for National Statistics has estimated that 33,000 people had the virus in England during the fortnight from May 25 to June 7.
The rate of 1 in 1,700 is less than a quarter of the infection rate of 1 in 400 calculated by the NSO in mid-May, when 133,000 were estimated to be infected. But evidence of the apparent decline in the pandemic has been combined with devastating figures on the impact of the virus on nursing homes.
Mortality levels in nursing homes in England, according to the ONS, were more than double the average of the past five years. Its report says that death records up to May 25 showed that in March and April, 147,785 deaths were recorded in the UK, 44,449 or 43% more than the average from 2015 to 2019.
Hospital deaths were 22.9% above five-year average levels and deaths in private homes 40.3% above usual levels in March and April.
The report warns that the virus could survive on the fur of pets, which means “there is a plausible way in which the animal can act like a fomite [infectious object] for at least a few hours and transfer the virus to other household members. “
The document states that dogs and cats that have been in contact with a coronavirus patient pose a “high risk” for people with underlying diseases such as diabetes cancer.
He advised owners of animals with symptoms to prevent their dogs or cats from coming into contact with “sensitive humans.”
He said: “We consider that the overall risk of such an animal being present in the household is high, when there are people with underlying health problems or a compromised immune system, but it would be otherwise average.
“Any risk management procedure when examining the presence of a pet in the household should ensure that the pet remains controlled to avoid contact with sensitive humans, taking particular account of underlying health, such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer or anyone with a compromised immune system.
However, Professor James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge, stressed yesterday that it was “very unlikely” that owners could get coronavirus from their pets.
He said, “There is no reason why vulnerable people should stop cuddling their dog or cat. Everyone should maintain good standards of hygiene with their pets and wash their hands throughout the day, as is generally recommended, to avoid the risk of contamination on their own. “
Professor Wood added that the risk to animals was low: “Despite the millions of people who have had COVID19, the number of pets found sick or infected is still miniscule. Simply put, our companion dogs and cats can catch COVID19 from us when they live with us, but only do so on very rare occasions. “
The SAGE document referred to cases of pets testing positive for the coronavirus, but indicated that there was a low risk of infected animals passing it on to humans.
He said two dogs, a 17-year-old Pomeranian and a German shepherd living in Hong Kong, had repeatedly tested positive for the coronavirus, adding that a Belgian cat had also tested positive.
High school students won’t return full-time in September, says director of academy
Students will not be able to go back to school full time in September with the two-meter rule in place, warned an academy boss yesterday.
Hamid Patel, chief executive of Star Academies, which operates 30 schools across the UK, said school leaders need an urgent government decision on social distancing. He added to the growing pressure on Boris Johnson to reduce the requirement of just one meter to help children get back to school.
Primary pupils are kept in “protective bubbles” not exceeding 15 pupils.
But for high schools dating back to September, the guidelines recommend a distance of two meters. Mr. Patel said that “the main obstacle to the complete reopening of secondary schools is the two-meter social distance rule” because it leads to “very small classes” with only 30 to 40% of the school population accommodated in same time.
A spokesman for the Department of Education said it was trying to get all of the students back to classrooms by September.
Is the pandemic increasing in the West Country?
The coronavirus could spread to the Southwest, figures released yesterday.
Although the spread rate – or R-value – is below the target of one in England overall, it is believed to have potentially exceeded this level in the West Country.
This means that each infected person could spread the virus to several others, leaving the epidemic to develop.
The government released regional R values for England yesterday. In the Southwest, this figure is estimated between 0.8 and 1.1.
Experts point out that the R-value, published by the Government Office for Science, may become less accurate as the number of people infected decreases.
Clusters of coronavirus cases, such as a recent spike in northern Somerset linked to Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare, can skew the numbers.
The East has the lowest estimate, ranging from 0.7 to 0.9, while it is 0.7 to 1 for North East and Yorkshire.
The rate for London, the South East, the Midlands and the North West is 0.8 to 1 – the same as overall for England.
Experts say the true R-value is usually in the middle of the range.