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Media captionMatt Hancock: “We’re about to see another step in the plan”

The government will outline proposals on how to safely reduce the 2m social distancing rule in England this week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the distance could be lowered with “mitigations”, so people can be closer without a higher risk of transmission.

Labour said it would support the change to 1m “under certain circumstances”.

Mr Hancock confirmed new easing of lockdown measures would be announced in the coming days, including whether pubs and restaurants can re-open on 4 July.

Boris Johnson announced a review into the 2m rule last week, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirming on Saturday its conclusion would be published this week.

But speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Hancock appeared to go further, saying: “The proposals we’ll bring forward are how you can safely reduce the 2m with the sort of mitigations we’ve been talking about.”

He said there were “all sorts” of measures that could be introduced, referring to the use of face masks on public transport, Perspex screens in shops, and studies on the reduction of transmission risk when people sit side-by-side or back-to-back.

But while the health secretary said he “very much hopes” to reduce the distance, the government would be “guided by the science”, and would only make changes “in a way that is safe and doesn’t lead to resurgence of virus”.

The other nations of the UK are yet to announce any plans to change the 2m distance rule.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is looking at the evidence, and Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said she is open to changing it.

A coronavirus adviser to the Welsh government said the risk in reducing the distance “isn’t very big”.

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