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Decision on reducing two metre social distancing rule expected

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Decision on reducing two metre social distancing rule expected

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce the Scottish Government’s decision on reducing the two metre social distancing rule. 

Businesses, particularly in the tourism and hospitality industries, want the rule relaxed to be in line with England, which will reduce the recommended minimum distance people should maintain from each other to one metre as of the weekend. 

Sturgeon is also expected to update the guidance on the use of face coverings and has hinted at new measures that she says will “help make this a slightly more normal and less frustrating summer holiday for many young people”.

Face coverings are currently mandatory only on public transport, but Sturgeon and other Scottish Government figures have said that moves to relax the social distancing rules could be coupled with other “mitigating actions”.

The UK Government’s scientific advice panel, known as SAGE, has said that reducing the distance to one metre could increase the risk of the virus spreading between individuals by up to 10 times compared with maintaining two metres distance.

Sturgeon has previously said that she was reluctant to change the rule without updated advice from scientific advisers. 

On 18 June she said: “Let me be clear that the advice and evidence we have at this time supports physical distancing at two metres. And we know that while there are no absolutes – and we should not see this in isolation - the shorter the distance, the greater the risk of transmission.

“So, I will not change this guidance without rigorous consideration and appropriate assurance.

“However, I have asked our advisers to consider whether there are particular settings and circumstances in which, with additional mitigations, it might be possible in future to recommend a distance of one or one point five metres. I hope to also have this advice within two weeks and will report on it then.”

Opposition parties have criticised Sturgeon in recent weeks, saying she has not shown “ambition” on helping businesses to reopen. The Scottish Conservatives accusing her of a “go slow” approach. 

Sturgeon has suggested that if Scotland continues on current trends that the country could effectively eliminate the coronavirus, with excess deaths returning to pre-lockdown levels. 

Before announcing the update to the social distancing rules, she tweeted a link to a graphic from the Financial Times showing the “progress” Scotland had made on reducing the rate of infection compared with other parts of the UK.

Sturgeon added: “But we mustn’t drop our guard. Please keep following the advice on face coverings, avoiding crowded places, cleaning hands, physical distancing and testing/self isolating if you have symptoms.”

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