Chancellor hints two-metre rule will be relaxed as he visits North Yorkshire shops

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said the review of the two-metre rule, due out next week, will "make an enormous difference" to businesses, in a major hint it will be relaxed.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 20th June 2020, 1:38 pm
Updated Saturday, 20th June 2020, 1:40 pm

In a visit to shops in North Yorkshire, he told reporters: "The outcome of that review will be announced this week, obviously that's something that will make an enormous difference I think to many businesses who are keen to see a change.

"Obviously we need to go through that review but I'm very understanding of the calls for action on that, particularly for our hospitality industry, for our pubs, for our restaurants, (they) are keen to see if there's some change that can be made there."

He said progress made to stem the spread of coronavirus means the Government can begin to "kick-start our economy" and that "starts with our high streets".

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

Boris Johnson is expected to make an announcement next week on pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels - with their reopening in England an ambition from July 4 to start reviving the economy.

He is under pressure from leaders of the hospitality sector and his own MPs to lessen the two-metre rule, which aims to slow the spread of Covid-19 but places major constraints on businesses.

The result of the PM's review is expected this week but the Chancellor strongly signalled it will allow the Government to ease the measure in England.

With the coronavirus alert level having been reduced from four to three on Friday, plans to allow the hospitality sector to reopen were beginning to emerge.

Guidance drawn up by the sector and ministers is understood to encourage pub goers to order drinks using phone apps instead of going to the bar, while current legislation was said to include the powers for patrols.

The UK Hospitality trade body said draft guidance allowed a "degree of flexibility" over menus being discarded after every use and for cutlery only to be brought out with food.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the idea was for individual businesses to draw up their own plans to keep their team and guests safe.

"As the guidelines cover from a burger van in a park right the way through to the Fat Duck in Bray you need to have something that takes account of everything in between rather than a one-size-fits-all," she added.

It was stressed that decisions on further easing were yet to be made, but the PM has said the lowering of the alert level from four to three allows ministers to "start making some progress" on social-distancing measures.

And he promised new guidance for the hospitality sector and businesses "very shortly".

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