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 ailing economy.
With the coronavirus alert level having been reduced on Friday, the Prime Minister believes he has some space to relax measures in a boost for the sector.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Radio 4 that the review the PM ordered into the two-metre social distancing rule would be concluded “within the coming days”, while Whitehall officials confirmed the outcome is expected next week.
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The rule seeks to slow the spread of Covid-19 but would be a heavy restraint on the hospitality sector when it reopens, with many bosses favouring the distance being reduced.
Guidance drawn up by the sector and ministers is understood to encourage pubgoers to order drinks using apps instead of going to the bar, while current legislation was said to include the powers for patrols.
The Times reported that restaurant tables would not be set in advance and room service would be left outside doors in hotels under the guidance.
It was being stressed that decisions on further easings were yet to be made, but the PM 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”.
The downgrading – recommended by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) – means transmission of coronavirus is no longer considered to be “high or rising exponentially”.
Localised outbreaks of Covid-19 are still “likely” to occur, the advisers warned, and the virus remains in general circulation.
Mr Johnson also told the public on Friday to “watch this space” when asked whether the distance restriction could be reduced to help schools in England return in autumn.
He has been under significant pressure from Conservatives to relax the distance and on Friday night former business secretary Greg Clark said evidence from other nations is “lower social distancing has worked”.
“It’s important we should benefit, it seems to me, from the experiences of others in this,” the Tory MP told BBC Newsnight.
Government scientific advisers have said they would be comfortable with a reduced distance if risk-mitigating measures were taken, such as people sitting side by side and wearing face coverings.
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