Removing 2-metre rule risks second wave warn unions

USDAW members demonstrate – the union wants to keep the two-metre rule

DESPITE announcing yesterday a seven-day rolling average of 130 people a day dying from Covid-19, Tory PM Johnson announced measures to ‘safely ease the lockdown in England’.

Johnson said: ‘We can change the two-metre rule from the 4th July. This rule makes it impossible for large parts of the economy in particular hospitality. So we are reducing the two-metre rule to a one-metre rule.

‘While we remain vigilant we do not believe that there is a risk of a second wave of infections which will overwhelm the NHS.’

Mandatory face coverings on public transport are to remain.

He continued: ‘I can tell the House that we will also open restaurants and pubs.

‘As eagerly anticipated as a pub will be a haircut, so I can announce that hairdressers can re-open as well.’

He announced that playgrounds, museums, hotels, cinemas, shopping arcades and community centres are to open.

However, he said that spas, bowling alleys and water parks will remain shut.

He said: ‘The virus will exploit any opportunity to recapture ground that we have vacated from our communities.’

He added: ‘We are not recommending meetings of multiple households indoors. Outdoors, people can meet in groups of up to six.

‘We are going to take certain steps to reduce risk of infection in the workplace, changing seating so that people are not sitting face to face.’

Labour leader Keir Starmer warmly supported the Tory PM announcing: ‘When I became leader of the Labour Party I said that our party will offer constructive opposition with the courage to support the government when they are doing the right thing.

‘Overall, I welcome this statement, I believe that the government are trying to do the right thing and in that I support them … my offer to work with the Prime Minister still stands.’

Before Johnson spoke, the Unite union warned that downgrading the two-metre social distancing rule risked causing ‘more outbreaks’ of coronavirus within the meat-processing sector.

The union said it was ‘inevitable’ that some low paid meat factory workers on ‘exploitative contracts’, who should be self-isolating, will continue working because they are only entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) of £95.85 a week.

Unite national officer Bev Clarkson said: ‘Many employers are barely taking notice of the two-metre social distancing rule as it is. Any downgrade for the meat industry in the current environment will simply give irresponsible bosses the excuse they need to do away with social distancing entirely. Put simply, it will risk more outbreaks at factories across the country.’

General Secretary of USDAW the shop workers union, Paddy Lillis said: ‘The safety of our members and the public is our top priority, so USDAW worked with the British Retail Consortium on joint safety guidance for shops based on the 2-metre rule.

‘Retailers have to publish risk assessments and implement robust safety measures and it appears that they have taken that seriously and are complying.

‘Reducing the 2-metre rule in stores could be disastrous for our members and send a message to the public that social distancing is over.

‘There is plenty of evidence to show that 2-metre separation is at least twice as safe as 1-metre. Independent SAGE warns that the risk of transmission is still too high to reduce social distancing rules indoors.

‘Covid-19 is still a killer disease that is at large in our communities. Retail has adapted well to the new circumstances. It is not necessary to change the 2-metre rule and it certainly shouldn’t be done without full discussion and agreement.’