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Two-metre rule remains for schools in England, says Health Secretary Matt Hancock


Restrictions: Matt Hancock

Restrictions: Matt Hancock

10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty

Restrictions: Matt Hancock

England will not be following Northern Ireland in setting a date for reducing the two-metre rule in schools until the virus is "under control", the UK Government has said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock indicated yesterday that the social distancing restriction would not be relaxed in time for all primary schools to reopen in England before the next academic year.

This comes despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson, two days before, suggesting the rule could be eased, when he said "watch this space" in response to pressure to lift it.

Asked about the possibility of reducing the two-metre restriction for pupils, at the Downing Street daily briefing, Mr Hancock said: "We are working on what is needed to get schools open in September, to get all schools open in September.

"And there is a review into the current two-metre rule. But the two-metre rule is in itself a social distancing measure.

"Removing it has an impact in terms of the transmission of the disease, so we have to make sure in that review that we have the space and the virus is under control enough to be able to make the change and replace the two-metre rule, if that is the conclusion of the review, with something that then makes it easier to do things like have people together in schools."

More clarity has been given for schools in Northern Ireland, where most pupils are set for a return to full-time education in the autumn, after ministers agreed to cut the social distancing measure to one metre.

Conservative MPs including chairman of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee Greg Clark, Bob Stewart and Imran Khan, have called on the Prime Minister to urgently reduce the two-metre social distancing rule for this reason and to help the economy recover.

Former Tory minister Tobias Ellwood also described the reduction of the two-metre rule to one as "game-changing for schools".

Belfast Telegraph