The British Health Secretary has said England is “clearly on track” to further ease the coronavirus lockdown, with the hope pubs, restaurants and hairdressers could reopen as early as July 4.
On Sunday, Matt Hancock promised the next steps would be set out this week, along with any alteration to the two-metre social distancing guidance.
With the two-metre rule placing severe constraints on the hospitality sector, it looks increasingly likely to be reduced as long as other mitigations – such as face coverings – can be used to help prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
Ministers believe that cases of coronavirus are sufficiently low after three months of lockdown that a greater reopening can take place in order to revive the ailing economy.
Mr Hancock told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “We’re clearly on track for that plan because (of) the number of cases coming down, and the plan does refer to hospitality and some of the other things that are closed that so many people want to see open.”
Acknowledging that “a lot of the country does need a haircut”, he said that he is “not going to rule out” hairdressers and barbers also being able to reopen on July 4.
Later on The Andrew Marr Show, he said the British Government will announce the results of a review into the two-metre rule, and the next step for the lockdown, this week.
“I think we are about to see another step in the plan and this week we will announce further details of the measures that we can take to relieve some of the national lockdown measures at the start of July including on July 4,” he said on the BBC programme.
“We’re going to set out those details absolutely this week.”
He gave perspex screens, masks and altered seating arrangements as examples of measures to mitigate the risk of spreading coronavirus if the two-metre rule is changed.
And he floated the idea that punters at pubs and bars could have to sign a guest book with their names and contact details so they could be swiftly traced if they come into contact with an infection.
Hotels are also awaiting the go-ahead to reopen and revive the chance of holidays within the UK and boost the economy.
To aid the recovery, Mr Hancock did not rule out suggestions that Rishi Sunak could slash VAT to encourage spending, telling Ridge: “It’s very much a matter for the Chancellor.”
The Health Secretary also said a reduction in the distance rule would “undoubtedly help with schools”, pointing to Northern Ireland where it will be reduced to one.