Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Science & Tech
  2. Coronavirus
4 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Two metre distancing rule may be relaxed as UK exits lockdown, defence secretary says

By Samuel Horti

The requirement for people to keep two metres apart could be halved to one metre, which would still reduce the rate of infection, defence secretary Ben Wallace has said.

“The two-metre rule reduces the possibility of infection by a certain amount of time,” he told Sky News. “If you halve that it still keeps people away from being infected but for a lesser time. The probability of being infected is much less.

“I think there are options about how we can do it. You can wear personal protective equipment (PPE), that could be a possibility if you have to be in close proximity or indeed you could find other ways of doing it.”

Wellcome Trust director Sir Jeremy Farrar, who is a member of the group of scientists advising the government on its coronavirus response, said there is “nothing magical” about the two-metre rule.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

“It’s based on old data about how far when we cough and we sneeze that the droplets and the aerosols that may come from that spread,” he told the Today programme.

“There’s nothing magical about two metres. Perhaps more importantly is the time you spend in contact with somebody else. Not just the distance but also the time.”

Wallace also said the government was sourcing as many face masks as it could in anticipation of changing the rules around wearing them in public.