UK govt considering ending social distancing indoors from next month in 'last lap' of pandemic – reports
The UK government is reportedly planning to scrap its ‘one metre-plus’ social distancing rule, but retain the use of face masks and screens, in indoor venues from June 21 as part of a proposed easing of Covid-related restrictions.
When the country enters ‘Step Four’ of its lockdown roadmap, all pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas are expected to be allowed to operate at full capacity, according to news reports. Test runs at live events are currently being held to gauge whether crowds can return to stadiums and concerts too.
Discussing the UK’s “last lap” of the pandemic on Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claimed Britain is “really close to turning the corner” but stressed that safeguards like masks will remain in place to protect against a potential future wave of infections.
“By the time we get to June 21, almost all social restrictions will be lifted, so there’s only a little bit more time to go but it's right we do that in a careful way,” Raab told Sky News. “We just need to make sure that in the last lap... we are careful and we don’t lose the gains we’ve made.”
However, an unnamed government source downplayed those comments, telling the Daily Mirror tabloid that the policy “genuinely isn’t decided yet.”
Raab’s remarks came on a day when 5,000 music fans crammed into Liverpool’s Sefton Park for a concert by the band Blossoms – one of the government’s official pilot events to help determine if major summer music festivals can be conducted safely after the June deadline.
Concertgoers had to take a supervised lateral flow test at designated testing centres in the city on Saturday, and were only allowed in if the test was negative. They were encouraged to follow up with more sensitive PCR tests on Sunday and again on Friday. This will help to determine whether there was any spread of the virus at the event.
Researchers with clipboards also mingled with the crowd, taking notes on several variable factors including audience movement and interaction, ventilation, duration, catering and alcohol consumption.
Preceding Sunday’s six-hour show were two nightclub events in the city on Friday and Saturday, which were attended by 3,000 people each night.
“The pilots have shown us that mitigations have worked sufficiently to allow us to remove social distancing, at least in the settings that we really need to in order to get them in a viable position again,” an unnamed government source told the Times paper.
“The kind of thing we’re looking at is keeping in place mask wearing, extra ventilation, staggered entry – all of that has been shown to have worked so far,” the source added.
The Times report said large-scale events will still have a hard cap on numbers beyond June 21, however, to avoid “pinch points” on public transport.
Additional details on the final easing of restrictions, which will follow the resumption of indoor hospitality on May 17, are expected to come via a report being prepared that will allegedly factor in some test events from across the country.
Under ‘Step Three’ of the roadmap, indoor gatherings of a maximum of six people, or two households, will be allowed from May 17. At the same time, indoor venues could be instructed to follow social distancing and require face coverings in return for the removal of hard caps on capacity.
Also from May 17, large-scale events will be allowed with reduced capacity, with outdoor venues permitted to be half-full or host 4,000 people, whichever is lower. Bigger stadiums can have up to 10,000 attendees.