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.
“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.