social distancing rule UK

Is the 2m social distancing rule viable in the UK – especially for the hospitality industry?

The Government is facing pressure to drop the 2m (6ft) social distancing rule in England as reported by the BBC

Was there ever complete science behind the 2 metre rule? I have tried to find it but I can’t. The World Health Organisation suggests a metre distance is safe based upon science which suggests most droplets sprayed from the mouth fall to the floor within 3 feet. A report after the SARs epidemic suggested 2 metres was not safe enough.

Where is the 2m social distancing rule being enforced?

2 metre social distancing is mandated in the UK, Canada and Spain. In Germany, Italy and Greece it is set at 1.5 metres, but in France, Denmark, and Singapore it is 1m.

The implication is clear, the closer you are the more risk there is, which is right to an extent. The Lancet reported that the risk of catching COVID at 1m was 12.8%, it reduced to 2.6% at 1.5 metres and 1.3% at 2 metres. However time spent with someone, and whether you are indoors or out also has an effect.

Is the 2m social distancing rule viable?

Are we willing to take more risk? Politicians seem to think so. Many are now breaking ranks and openly calling for a cut to the social distancing rules, in combination to the gradual opening up of businesses. It seems to that the scientists may also be willing to squeeze the gap. Professor Linda Bauld on the ‘World At One’ on 10 June said she would be content for a drop to 1.5 metres.

Certainly the hospitality sector would be unviable without a shift in the distancing rules. It seems that a drop to 1.5 metres might be neither here nor there, as who would really be able to tell the difference between that and a metre.

It all comes down to political judgment. As we have been continually told, scientists advise and politicians implement. Prime Minister Johnson seems minded to lessen that gap but has also been reported as saying ‘the incidence of disease is not as low as we would like’.

Maybe it will be taken out of politicians’ hands. With little or no social distancing evident at BLM gatherings over the last two weeks, have people decided to make up their own rules. As the majority of business opens on 15 June, will shoppers implement their own social distance and force a change of the rules to a distance that is already being used in practice?


Steve Thatcher is a non-practising solicitor of 25 years’ experience He is an ex-publican and personal licence holder. He currently practices as a business rescue and insolvency professional with F A Simms & Partners. Please read some of Steve’s other articles such as ‘How can small businesses plan for reopening’ and ‘projecting the reopening of the hospitality sector’

Steve works directly with numerous businesses in the hospitality sector and has first-hand experience of how COVID19 is affecting them.

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