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Furore as community leaders vent frustration over Governments possible two-metre rule reduction

PUBLISHED: 18:37 12 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:38 12 June 2020

Community Warden Supervisor Bradley Smith and his son Logan (pictured) have been implementing social distancing measures around Sudbury under the two-metre rule. Picture: BRADLEY SMITH

Community Warden Supervisor Bradley Smith and his son Logan (pictured) have been implementing social distancing measures around Sudbury under the two-metre rule. Picture: BRADLEY SMITH

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Rumours that Boris Johnson is reviewing social distancing measures has been met with anger and frustration by Suffolk communities who have invested heavily in signage and markings to allow non-essential shops to open.

Pictured Aldeburgh High Street. The Town Council said: Pictured Aldeburgh High Street. The Town Council said: "Whether its right or wrong to reduce it from two metres to one, its not our decision." Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson promised to “keep that two-metre rule under constant review” as he faced mounting pressure from fellow MPs to reduce the distancing guidelines from two-metres to one-metre.

With towns and cities across the UK ready to open non-essential shops and businesses and welcome back their customers, the last-minute change could prove costly and a drain on resources.

Community leaders have spoken of the “stress” involved at having to change provisions already in place and say it is “too late” to be making this judgement creating added pressure on already strained economy.

MORE: Sudbury prepares to welcome back shoppers

The Codfather in Sudbury has already re-opened with two-metre social distancing measures in place outside. Picture: GEMMA JARVISThe Codfather in Sudbury has already re-opened with two-metre social distancing measures in place outside. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

Rachel Price, town centre manager for Sudbury, said: “We have been preparing for the shops re-opening on the two-metre distancing rule. For them it’s just another metre, but for us it’s the investment of paint, placards, notices and stencils never mind the manpower involved. We’ve received no subsidy to put these measurements in place and a lot of businesses have already invested in it.

“We’ve organised massive infrastructure changes all based on the two-metre distancing guidelines. The government needs to recognise the science - if we are safer at two-metres then that’s what we need to do.

“If the law now changes two days before the shops re-open, we will have to change signage and notices and all manner of things and there is a massive cost implication involved.”

However, she added: “A one-metre rule would help with the spacing of tables and chairs in restaurants but it’s too late to be making these kinds of decisions. It puts enormous stress and pressure on our towns and businesses. The flippancy of the remark has not considered the investment towns have already made.”

MORE: Roads closed and additional market day announced for Sudbury
Ruth Proctor, clerk for Aldeburgh Town Council, said: “We haven’t specified any distancing measures around Aldeburgh at all purely because we thought this might change in the future. It’s about safety and social distancing regulations, whatever they may be at given time. Whether it’s right or wrong to reduce it from two metres to one, it’s not our decision. But I can sympathise with other towns who have already put measures in place at two-metres.”

Discussing Aldeburgh re-opening further shops on Monday, she said: “We’re lucky to have lots of independent shops that are also essential so most of our shops remained open anyway.

“I think it’s just about being prepared as much as we can be.

“We just don’t know what to expect.”

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Terry Hunt, chairman of Ipswich Vision, said: “In Ipswich, we are advising people to maintain distance in accordance with current government advice.

“Most businesses in the town – especially the leisure and hospitality sector which is unlikely to be able to reopen until July at the earliest – favour a reduction in the current two-metre distancing guideline.”

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