Pandemic easing

Virus threat downgrade raises two metre hopes

George IV pub

Pubs are calling for a relaxation of the distancing rule

Pressure mounted for a relaxation of the two metre rule today after the chief medical officers for the four UK nations agreed to downgrade the coronavirus threat to level three.

The chief medical officers for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland sitting on the joint biosecurity centre now judge that transmission is “no longer high or rising exponentially”.

In a statement the CMOs – Professor Chris Whitty for England, Dr Michael McBride for Northern Ireland, Dr Gregor Smith for Scotland and Dr Chris Jones for Wales – said: “There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues.

“It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.

“We have made progress against the virus thanks to the efforts of the public and we need the public to continue to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure this progress continues.”

The news will raise hopes, particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors, that the two metre rule can be relaxed to one metre, allowing more pubs, cafes, restaurants and small shops to reopen.

Many have expressed concern that the current rule means they cannot cater for sufficient numbers of customers to make reopening economically viable.

Boris Johnson could announce a relaxation of the ruling as early as today, while Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has ordered a review.


The coronavirus threat level is measured by a five-level, colour-coded alert system, which helps determine the extent of social distancing measures. Level five – red – is when there is a “material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed” and strict social distancing should be followed.

Level four, where there is a high or rising level of transmission, means social distancing should be enforced. A downgrade to level three will see social distancing measures relaxed further.

The reproduction (R) rate, a measure of how fast coronavirus is spreading, helps determine the level.

The JBC sets the level and determines changes in infection rates across England. It monitors local spikes in Covid-19 infections and help advise health officials and local authorities.

See also

Publicans threaten to defy social distancing rules

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