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Reducing two-metre rule effectively means ending social distancing, expert warns

Behavioural scientist Professor Suan Michie said Scotland should continue with its cautious approach, which is ‘paying dividends’.

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Social distancing advice on a pavement (PA)

Social distancing advice on a pavement (PA)

Social distancing advice on a pavement (PA)

Scotland should retain the two-metre social distancing rule as part of its efforts to combat coronavirus, an expert has said.

Behavioural scientist Professor Susan Michie from University College London was speaking as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prepares to announce the findings of a review into whether the two-metre rule should remain north of the border.

England has already scrapped the policy in favour of a one-metre plus system, and is also moving ahead with plans to open pubs, restaurants and hairdressers this weekend on what has been dubbed “independence day”.

Prof Michie said the change is a “disaster waiting to happen”, insisting opening indoor areas in pubs is “probably the top of the level of the hierarchy of riskiness”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, she said: “I think it is really misguided. I think it is asking for trouble. I think everybody can see what is going to happen.

“If we really want to eradicate this virus and get back to normal, this is exactly what we should not be doing.”

Prof Michie, a member of the Independent Sage expert group, said Scotland has so far performed “brilliantly” in tackling Covid-19.

She warned against relaxing the two-metre rule, particularly after a cross-border cluster of cases were discovered in the south-west of Scotland and north-west of England.

She said Scotland should “keep on going in that careful, cautious way because it is obviously showing massive dividends compared to south of the border”.

She added: “Given you have got these outbreaks and clusters, I would suggest going a bit more slowly and I would definitely suggest hanging on to the two-metre rule in the light of that.”

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

She argued moving from two metres to one would effectively amount to ending physical distancing.

The expert said: “The problem about going two metres to one metre is we know that two metres is anything from 10 to 30 times safer than one metre, according to the studies that have been done.

“If you look around at people trying to keep two metres apart, most are actually more like one-and-a-half metres, which is significantly safer than one metre.

“If you go down to one metre, actually that is about the distance that people you don’t know and are not intimate with are distant from each other just generally going around and about their business. So basically you have lost the whole concept of social distance.

“And once you have lost the whole concept of social distance, you really are in trouble.”

PA