SAGE scientists say a 3 metre social distancing rule should be considered

Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 11:35 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 11:35 am

The two metre social distancing rule could change to three metres, following advice from two leading members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), according to the Daily Mail.

Increasing the distance people must maintain from members of other households could be just one of several stricter rules brought in, as the Government looks for ways to halt the spread of the virus.

What are the current rules?

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Originally, social distancing was set at two metres in England. However, the rules were later changed to ‘one metre plus’, meaning two metres of distance should be observed where possible, but no less than one metre.

This was also the case in some hospitality settings in Scotland, though the two metre social distancing role has primarily stayed the same there since the beginning of the pandemic. Now scientists are thought to be pushing for a ‘two metre plus’ social distancing policy.

The social distancing policies were set as such due to scientists’ belief that the virus is up to 10 times more transmissible at one metre away than two.

While it is thought that requiring a three metre distance could help to reduce transmission between individuals in public, some critics say this would only cause confusion. Plus, many businesses and public places have put in place measures with the two metre distance in mind, such as screens and floor markings.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, 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.”

Will this happen?

Ministers have been keen to stress that, while they hope the current raft of restrictions will be enough to contain the spread of the virus, further tightening up can not be ruled out.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last night (11 Jan), Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We don’t rule out further action” after describing the current situation as “the worst point in the pandemic.”

Mr Hancock advised people to “act like you have the virus”, saying: “It’s all the more important to do all of this because the vaccine rollout is now proceeding at pace.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “There are no current plans to change social distancing rules. However, everything is kept under review.”