Finance minister says Britain to urgently review distancing rule

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak chairs the daily COVID-19 briefing at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain May 29, 2020. Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will urgently review its two-metre social distancing rule as it tries to help the economy recover from a 25% coronavirus crisis collapse, finance minister Rishi Sunak said.

Progress in tackling the coronavirus meant Britain was able to take a “fresh look” at the rule, which many employers have said will make it harder for them to get back up to speed, Sunak told Sky News television on Sunday.

“The prime minister has put in place a comprehensive review of the two-metre rule. That review will involve the scientists, economists and others,” he said, adding that safety would not be put at risk by any changes.

Reducing the distance that people must maintain to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus would mean three quarters of pubs could reopen, rather than about one third with a two-metre rule in place.

Sunak also said that data last week showing Britain’s economy shrank by a quarter over March and April “just laid bare the scale of the economic impact” of the lockdown.

“We have always known that was going to happen, but now the numbers are starting to show that,” Sunak said.

The immediate shock to the economy from the lockdown would prove temporary and this week’s reopening of the retail sector was an important step for the recovery which would be followed by the hospitality sector, he added.

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Paul Sandle and Alexander Smith

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