WHO – keeping one metre apart slashes coronavirus risk by 80%: Keeping just one metre apart reduces the risk of catching coronavirus by 80%, a major WHO study has revealed. The new research, funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO), will add to calls for Britain’s two-metre rule social distancing rule to be relaxed. Scientists found that people have just a 2.6% chance of catching coronavirus if they stand one metre away from an infected patient. This means the disease would spread to fewer than three out of 100 people, whereas 13 out of 100 would catch the virus if no distancing rule was in place. The study found that standing two metres apart was slightly more effective at preventing transmission, reducing the risk to around 1.3%, but that nothing can provide complete protection. They added that face masks have a strong protective effect, reducing the risk of catching the virus by up to 85 per cent. Business leaders have claimed the small increased risk from relaxing the two-metre restriction would be worth the economic benefits of allowing more businesses to reopen. Writing in The Daily Mail, former chancellor Norman Lamont said halving the rule to one metre was ‘the single most important measure we must take’ to avoid ‘devastating mass unemployment’. The WHO only recommends staying one metre apart. In France and Italy, the recommended social distance is just one metre, while Germany and Australia have implemented a 1.5 metre rule. Yesterday’s study, published in the Lancet, was conducted to inform WHO guidance and reviewed data from 172 existing studies on the spread of covid-19, SARS and MERS. In a Propel opinion article yesterday, sector investor Hugh Osmond wrote: “In the hospitality industry, we need to be brave – we need to call out the ridiculous and unjustified two-metre rule; we need to get customers back through the doors and show them they can have a great time and are not going to die of the Black Death. We need to lead from the front; stand up for what is right, not for what is proven to be nonsense. We need to shout from the rooftops: ‘This virus is not to be afraid of – come on out and have fun’. Be clear, by 15 March, it was obvious from the data that the growth in infections was not following the famous Imperial exponential curve. If government had been on the ball and examined the data more closely, it would have seen then the infection spike was in hospitals and the rate of growth was already significantly slowing by lock-down. Had the government not dispatched the virus into care homes, it would have been more or less over by the end of April. If everyone is allowed out with zero social distancing, there will be no second wave of deaths – so long as hospitals, care homes and the most vulnerable are protected. For technical reasons relating to variability of R and much lower susceptibility than assumed by Imperial, herd immunity is probably already there in London and can be achieved with almost no further deaths elsewhere.”