Is there any science behind two-metre social distancing rule…? Government adviser says guidelines on keeping apart was ‘conjured out of nowhere’
- Robert Dingwall from Nervtag said that the rule was ‘conjured up out of nowhere’
- The sociology professor warned evidence supports a one-metre gap but not two
- He said that government’s advice for a two-metre distance was a ‘rule of thumb’
- Nervtag feeds into Sage, which is spearheading the government’s Covid-19 fight
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Social distancing orders to keep two metres apart to stop the spread of coronavirus is based on a made up figure, a government adviser has warned.
Robert Dingwall from New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said the rule was ‘conjured up out of nowhere’.
The sociology professor at Nottingham Trent University said scientific evidence supports a one-metre gap, but the two-metre advice was a ‘rule of thumb’.
Nervtag feeds into the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which is spearheading the government’s pandemic response.
Sage has faced fierce criticism after it was revealed Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings has been sitting in on meetings as far back as February.
Robert Dingwall (left) from New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said the rule was ‘conjured up out of nowhere’. The group feeds into Sage, which has faced stern criticism after it was revealed Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings (right) has been sitting in on meetings
Mr Dingwall told Radio 4’s Today: ‘We cannot sustain [social distancing measures] without causing serious damage to society, to the economy and to the physical and mental health of the population.
‘I think it will be much harder to get compliance with some of the measures that really do not have an evidence base. I mean the two-metre rule was conjured up out of nowhere.’
He added: ‘Well there is a certain amount of scientific evidence for a one-metre distance which comes out of indoor studies in clinical and experimental settings.
‘There’s never been a scientific basis for two metres, it’s kind of a rule of thumb. But it’s not like there is a whole kind of rigorous scientific literature that it is founded upon.’
The government put Britain on lockdown on March 23 and enforced social distancing to try to combat the rapid spread of the killer virus.
Guidance on its website says: ‘If you meet others when you are outdoors (for example, on a walk) ensure that you stay at least 2 metres away.’
The government put Britain on lockdown on March 23 and enforced social distancing to try to combat the spread of the killer virus. Pictured: The PM on April 12
Mr Dingwall’s comments will throw into question whether people need to keep as far apart as is being advised.
The academic also noted there could be ways out of the lockdown for groups that are less likely to interrupt transmission of the bug.
He said children could go back to school from the beginning of June for the last part of the summer term.
And he added on a hot summer’s day landlords may be able to open pubs if they take responsibility and do not allow overcrowding.
His comments came ahead of the huge row in Whitehall over the presence of Mr Cummings at Sage discussions.
The PM’s chief adviser’s name was on a leaked list of attendees at the group’s meetings going back as far back as February.
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (right) has demanded that Dominic Cummings and Ben Warner (left) should not be sitting on Sage
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth blasted the move and asked why he was allowed to attend.
Mr Ashworth told Today: ‘The concern is that political advisers have influenced the debate, the way to clear this up is for all the minutes to be published, we’ve called on the Government to do this.
‘When you are dealing with an epidemic like this, you need to take the public with you every step.’
The list showed Mr Cummings was at a Sage meeting with 24 others on March 23, the day the PM announced the nationwide lockdown.
Mr Cummings was also joined by Ben Warner, a data scientist who worked alongside him on the Vote Leave Brexit campaign in 2016, say other members of the group.