Coronavirus: Boris Johnson confirms pubs to reopen 4 July and 2-metre rule relaxed

Changes in England amount to biggest relaxation of restrictions since lockdown introduced in March

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
,Ashley Cowburn
Tuesday 23 June 2020 13:38 BST
Boris Johnson announces social distancing rules reduced from 2m to 1m

Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and hotels can reopen in England from 4 July, when the two-metre social distancing rule will be slashed to one metre, Boris Johnson has confirmed in a statement in the House of Commons.

The announcement - which also covers museums, galleries and places of worship - amounted to the most significant loosening of restrictions since lockdown was introduced on 23 March and came as independent scientists warned that the coronavirus infection rate remains too high to relax controls.

And new guidance will allow indoor gatherings of members of two households in homes, pubs and restaurants, as well as on holiday in shared accommodation or neighbouring tents.

The changes were approved by cabinet this morning after Mr Johnson and senior ministers took advice from members of the PM’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies on Monday evening.

The reopening of venues will be accompanied by strict guidelines on making them Covid-secure, to be published this afternoon and expected to include physical barriers between tables and New Zealand-style “guest registers” of customers in pubs and restaurants.

Wedding ceremonies are to be permitted with up to 30 people present, but receptions will not be allowed.

Campsites, caravan parks, libraries, hairdressers, outdoor playgrounds, theme parks, community centres, bingo halls and workplace canteens will open, with appropriate social distancing measures.

But the doors will remain shut on nightclubs, casinos, indoor gyms, swimming pools, bowling alleys, skating rinks, nail bars, spas, tattoo and massage parlours.

And theatres and concert halls may host screenings of filmed events, but will not be allowed to open for live performance, because of the increased risk of projection of the virus from singing and actors declaiming and the difficulty of moving performers around the stage.

Mr Johnson said that where possible, people should try to remain two metres apart, but otherwise should observe a "one metre plus" rule under which they stay one metre apart from others, while taking mitigating steps like wearing face coverings, remaining side by side rather than face to face to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

The PM told the Commons - where only a handful of socially-distanced MPs were present on the green benches: "Today we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our streets and shops. The bustle is starting to come back and a new but cautious optimism is palpable.

"But it would be all too easy for that frost to return. That's why we will continue to trust in the common sense and community spirit of the British people to follow this guidance, to carry us through and see us to victory over this disease."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he wanted more "clarity" on the changes but agreed with the thrust of the changes.

"Overall I welcome this statement," Starmer told MPs. "I believe the government is trying to do the right thing and in that we will support them."

(Reuters TV

Mr Johnson said that the two-metre regulation would have prevented "all but a fraction of our hospitality industry from operating".

He told MPs that a relaxation of lockdown was possible because of the fall in prevalence of coronavirus infections outside hospitals falling from one person in 400 four weeks ago to one in 1,700 now.

But he warned that he would not hesitate to reverse the easing of measures nationwide if there were signs of a new spike in the illness, vowing: "At every stage caution will remain our watchword. Each step will be conditional and reversible."

Mr Johnson said: "The virus has not gone away. We will continue to monitor the data with the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

"As we have seen in other countries, there will be flare-ups for which local measures will be need. We will not hesitate to apply the brakes and reintroduce restrictions even at national level if required. I urge everyone to stay alert, control the virus and save lives."

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