James Forsyth

Why the one-metre rule could stay beyond June 21

Why the one-metre rule could stay beyond June 21
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Matt Hancock said this morning that the Indian variant was 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kentish one. Now, it should be noted that these numbers do tend to move around. But if come 14 June and the decision about the unlocking on 21 June this is still the figure, it would point to a less than full reopening. The view in Whitehall has long been that if it is only 30 per cent more transmissible then it would be safe to go ahead with a big bang unlocking. But if the figure was higher than that, then things would get complicated.

This suggests that some forms of social distancing will remain post 21 June. Continued mask wearing seems a near certainty given how little economic impact that measure has. The working from home instruction is also likely to remain as its economic impact is relatively small and given that the government has long assumed that the big return to the office will take place in September rather than this summer. But the big question is about the one metre rule. This is the remaining measure that has both the biggest negative economic impact and effect on the R number. I suspect that if the new strain is still regarded as 40 per cent more transmissible on June 14, there will be, at least, a few more weeks where the one metre rule remains in place as the government waits for more people to have their second doses.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.

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