The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today announced that (in England) the two-metre social distancing rule will be replaced with “one-metre plus” guidance from the 4th July.  In another step towards “normality”, the “one-metre plus” approach will mean that people can be one metre away from each other as long as other measures are put in place to limit the transmission of the virus, such as “wearing face coverings, installing screens and facing away from other people”. Mr Johnson reiterated in his speech to the house that people should still say two metres apart from others where possible.

In his speech Mr Johnson advised the House that Government have now ordered over 2.2 billion items of protective equipment from UK based manufacturers, many of whose production lines have been called into being to serve this new demand.  He also announced that new guidance will be published on how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers.  “These include, for instance, avoiding face-to-face seating by changing office layouts, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, closing non-essential social spaces, providing hand sanitiser and changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams.  And of course, we already mandate face coverings on public transport.  Whilst the experts cannot give a precise assessment of how much the risk is reduced, they judge these mitigations would make “1 metre plus” broadly equivalent to the risk at 2 metres if those mitigations are fully implemented.”

The Prime Minister reflected on the importance of this announcement to the hospitality sector and plans to re-open large sections on the 4th July stating – “I know this rule effectively makes life impossible for large parts of our economy, even without other restrictions.  For example, it prevents all but a fraction of our hospitality industry from operating.”  He has committed to publishing findings of the expert review in the Commons Library this week.

Responding to the announcement FIS CEO Iain McIlwee said:  “This measure is less targeted at construction and more at the fact that From July 4, the hospitality sector will start to re-open.  That said, we now need to review our own guidance – with only 12% of our members able to operate profitably under the existing Site Operating Procedures, this announcement could have a huge impact on productivity and be a vital lifeline.   I think it is important to echo what the Prime Minister said in his speech – where it is possible to keep 2 metres apart people should.  The sector has reacted well to adapting processes to enable maintaining safe working distances, and not withstanding productivity, we also know that behaviours are one of our biggest challenges.  We need to continue re-enforcing the importance of safe working distances – evidence tells us that the risk will increase the closer we get and we need to continue to do all we can to protect our people and prevent any transmission of the virus”.

In the speech the Prime Minister also reminded that the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland hold responsibility for their own lockdown restrictions and they will respond to the united view of the Chief Medical Officers at their own pace, based on their own judgement.

Responding to the statement the Construction Leadership Council commented:

“The Government is reviewing its ‘Safer Working’ guidance in light of this.  Consequently, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) will review its own guidance (including the Site & Branch Operating Procedures) and update it to reflect the new requirements.”

You can read the full speech here.

Details of current H&S Guidance including PPE from FIS is available in our H&S COVID Toolkit Here including detailed guidance on PPE and our Task Assessment Tool.