Covid-19: UK government confirms two metre rule will be eased from 4 July

The UK government has relaxed the social distancing rule from two to one metre, which will help in the reopening of retail stores, as well as pubs and restaurants next month. The new rules will enable retailers to welcome more shoppers into their stores at one time.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement during a statement to the House of Commons today. It is part of the easing of lockdown restrictions that was first outlined in the government's roadmap last month. These steps apply only to England, with the devolved administrations of Scotland and Wales yet to announce easing of the two metre rule.

Johnson said: "Given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus, we can change the two metre social distancing rule from 4 July."

He added: "Today we can say our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our streets and to our 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 the community spirit of the British people to follow this guidance to carry us through and to see us to victory over this virus."

Last week, the government announced that the UK had lowered its coronavirus alert level from four to three. This is because the government currently does not believe there is a risk of a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS.

The lockdown measures have had a devastating impact on non-essential retailers, especially in areas such as fashion. Increases in online sales during this period have generally failed to offset store closures, as most non-essential retailers ploughed efforts into supporting their eCommerce operations. The industry welcomed the news that non-essential retailers could reopen their doors from Monday, with significant queues seen outside Primark and Nike on Oxford Street.

In addition, Johnson announced that a number of businesses in the hospitality and leisure industry can reopen from 4 July, including pubs and restaurants. However, close-proximity indoor leisure businesses like indoor gyms, spas, and bowling alleys will remain closed for the time being. Hairdressers will also be allowed to reopen their shops on 4 July.

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