Boris Johnson said the change will help many businesses relying on direct contact with customers resume their activities after the coronavirus pandemic. The Prime Minister said the changes will come into in effect from July 4 after weeks of calls for clarity from business owners. Addressing the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: “Given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus, we can change the two-metre social distancing rule from July 4.
“I know this rule effectively makes life impossible for large parts of our economy even without other restrictions.
“For example, it prevents all but a fraction of our hospitality industry from operating.”
He continued: “That’s why nearly two weeks ago I asked out experts to conduct a review and I will place a summary of their conclusions in the libraries of both houses this week.
“Where it is possible to keep two metres apart, people should. But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a distance of one metre plus, meaning they should remain one metre apart while taking mitigations to reduce transmissions.”
The Prime Minister also sought to allay fears a second wave of the virus would overwhelm the NHS this year.
He said: “While we remain vigilant, we do not believe there is a risk of a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS.”
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Mr Johnson is also expected to announce plans for pubs, hairdressers, cinemas and museums to reopen from July.
The announcement comes a week after most non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen on June 15 under strict social distancing guidance.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday Britons who have been forced to shield because of the virus will be allowed to visit relatives and friends from July 6.
But the Government said they are ready to bring back stricter measures should the infection rate be seen to spike again as the lockdown is eased.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) warned the coronavirus pandemic is now in a “new and dangerous phase”.
The WHO on Monday warned “the pandemic is accelerating” while announcing countries across the globe reported more than 150,000 virus cases as of last week – the largest daily increase in cases so far.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference: “The world is in a new and dangerous phase. Many people are understandably fed up with being at home.
“Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies. But the virus is still spreading fast. It is still deadly. And most people are still susceptible.”