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Stormont maintaining two-metre distancing guidance – Swann

The health minister said his department was examining evidence from other countries that had a shorter recommended distance.

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Social distancing on the Comber Greenway in east Belfast (liam McBurney/PA)

Social distancing on the Comber Greenway in east Belfast (liam McBurney/PA)

Social distancing on the Comber Greenway in east Belfast (liam McBurney/PA)

Stormont is maintaining its two-metre social guidance but will examine evidence from other countries that recommend a shorter distance, the health minister has said.

Robin Swann’s comments come as figures in a range of sectors impacted by the virus – from schools to restaurants and bars – have highlighted the difference a reduction to one metre could make.

More children could be taught in classrooms and more customers could be accommodated in food and drink establishments, they have said.

The World Health Organisation recommends one metre as a safe distance, as do many other countries dealing with the emergency.

Public Health England has indicated that the two-metre guidance in England could be reduced as the exit from lockdown continues.

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Robin Swann suggested reducing the two-metre distance could impact the length of time people could be in each other’s company (Kelvin Boyes/PA).

Robin Swann suggested reducing the two-metre distance could impact the length of time people could be in each other’s company (Kelvin Boyes/PA).

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Robin Swann suggested reducing the two-metre distance could impact the length of time people could be in each other’s company (Kelvin Boyes/PA).

When asked about the prospect of a reduction in Northern Ireland, Mr Swann told the daily Covid-19 media briefing that cutting the distance could have implications for the length of time people could spend in each other’s company.

“In regards to two metres and decreasing that, one thing we have to take into cognisance when we talk about reducing that distance apart (is) the viral share or the viral load share at two metres is anyone who’s engaged with 15 minutes two metres apart,” he said.

“So if you actually restrict the distance that people are apart you restrict the amount of time that they have to be in contact to share the same amount of virus.

“So when we do look at that it has to be something that’s done in conjunction as to where the virus is actually in Northern Ireland and how we’re looking at the concentration and the spread of virus actually across the country.

“But it is something that we in the (health) department, some of my special advisory group, does keep regular cognisance of as well, so we look at all worldwide guidance as it comes in.

“But at this moment in time we are still maintaining the two-metre guidance.”

PA