Getting the “nonsensical” two-metre distancing rule reduced should be considered the “most important fight” in the short term for hospitality operators, Hugh Osmond has said.

Speaking as part of MCA’s The Conversation panel, Osmond, whose Sun Capital Partners backs Strada and Coppa Club, referred to the current government distancing guidelines as an “absolute nonsense,” and urged attendees to lobby for a lifting of the rule.

“If there’s one thing we should all fight for in the short term, it’s to get this two-metre rule removed,” he said. “It’s got no science, no backing, no reason, and it’s an absolute death knell for retail and hospitality.”

Mentioning his background in science – Osmond studied medicine for a short time at Oxford University - he substantiated his arguments with the fact that “there is very little science behind the difference between a metre and two metres.”

He said that of the transmission studies he has seen, most of which are theoretical in approach, most have found that the extra metre would only cut the risk of transmission from “2% to 1%.”

“So, it’s very insignificant,” he explained. “And that’s indoors with no ventilation.”

As soon as factors including ventilation, draft or outdoor environments are considered, Osmond argued that the effectiveness of two metres over one “becomes nothing.”

“Outside, there’s not a case yet reported on the entire planet where anybody has caught covid-19 at a distance of a metre,” he said. “We’re in the world of the nonsensical here.”

Responding to the Government’s recent suggestion that sites with outside space may be able to reopen by 22 June, Osmond said that whilst many of his businesses have enough outside space “to do something” in terms of trade at two metres, that it does not make a lessening of the distance any less imperative.

“We’re lucky enough to have to have a lot of outdoor space that we can run really safely,” he said. “But it’s just a stopgap for when the weather is decent.”

“Realistically, the hospitality industry does not fly with two metres, and we need to get that across to the Government so they can relax it to one metre, and we can all get on with life.”

Also speaking at the event, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls suggested there was reason to be cautiously optimistic that the Government could reassess the guidance sooner rather than later.

Explaining that the distancing issue is a live discussion “in The Cabinet, The Treasury and Number Ten,” Nicholls said that as health statistics continue to improve a reduction in the guidance “will be a when, not an if.”

“In the government’s five levels of risk alertness, we’re currently moving into level three in terms of risk,” she said. “And it was always envisaged that social distancing would relax when you move towards three and then even further at two.”

However, despite the falling transmission rates, Nicholls also warned that with the Government pushing to get hospitality businesses open earlier than originally expected, “it might be too much of a reach” for them to reduce social distancing at the same time.

“But I think it will be in quick succession if they are minded to do it,” she said. “It’s about political will rather than science.”

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