Two metre rule under review as government works on all schools reopening in September, Matt Hancock tells conference

Matt Hancock has said the coronavirus outbreak would have to be ‘under control’ before the Government would cut the recommended social distance in classrooms.
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The Health Secretary was asked at today’s Downing Street coronavirus briefing whether England could follow in Northern Ireland's footsteps and cut the two-metre minimum distance to one metre when schools reopen in September, to help get pupils back into the classroom.

He replied: “We are working on what is needed to get schools open in September, to get all schools open in September.

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

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during today's briefingHealth Secretary Matt Hancock during today's briefing
Health Secretary Matt Hancock during today's briefing
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Ministers would have to be satisfied a change to the rules would not lead to an increase in cases.

He said: “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,” he said.

“So I get the interaction between the two-metre rule and getting people back to school.

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“We’re working very hard now, and DfE (Department for Education) is leading it, on the work that’s needed in order to have all pupils back in school, as everybody wants to see, from the start of September.”

Mr Hancock insisted the system which could see special lockdowns used to tackle localised outbreaks was “up and running”.He said the local director of public health and the council were “heavily involved” in dealing with an outbreak in Kirklees, West Yorkshire.

Setting out how the system worked, he said: “We have a process so that if, on the ground, they need powers that I have, they can put that request up and we can look at that.

“Similarly, if we spot a problem we can go down to the council and ask what they are doing about it.”

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