Two-Metre Physical Distancing Rule
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 29 June 2020, we asked a question about the two-metre physical distancing rule.
Should the two-metre rule remain in place in Scotland?
- YES – 98% (438 respondents)
- NO – 2% (11 respondents)
The following is a summary of the main themes and key concerns of our members regarding the two-metre physical distancing rule. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience. Please note that the survey was conducted prior to the announcement that the two-metre rule will be relaxed for the hospitality, retail, and public transport sectors.
Maintain Two-Metre Rule
The vast majority of respondents (97%) stated that the two-metre physical distancing rule should remain in place. Some disabled people were anxious that they could be at greater risk of COVID-19 if the rule is relaxed.
“While changing the two metre distancing rule may benefit some members of the public and industries such as hospitality, the Scottish Government must also keep in mind that many disabled people are more at risk than most non-disabled people.”
“It would make me really nervous if we currently reduced the two metre rule.”
There was consensus from respondents that any change made to the rule must be routed in scientific evidence to ensure the public remain safe.
“We should only reduce the two-metre physical distancing rule when the Scottish Government Advisory Group confirm it is safe. In doing so we need a public message that it is clearer than 1 metre plus, which is just confusing.”
“The two-metre rule guidance should be based entirely on public health evidence and not what people want, like or would favour. I appreciate the two-metre guidance has various knock on effects for individuals and businesses but Covid-19 has already been shown to be a vicious virus.”
Some respondents highlighted the difficulty of maintaining the two-metre rule on public transport. We host the Accessible Travel Hub (www.accessibletravel.scot), a website dedicated to accessible travel. We are updating the Hub with the latest COVID-19 information and guidance published by transport providers in Scotland.
“For disabled people who cannot drive, it will be impossible to maintain the rule unless bus and train services are increased to normal levels. There will inevitably be a huge increase in tourism in Scotland once hotels can re-open on 15th July. Yet despite this, ScotRail and CityLink buses have no plans to restore normal train and bus services so all social distancing will be impossible due to overcrowded trains and buses.”
“Spacing on buses not enforceable, not always clearly marked, issues for visually impaired, ridiculous for children.”
Alongside retaining the two-metre physical distancing rule, respondents also highlighted the importance of wearing face coverings as an extra precaution. However, it must be recognised that not everyone can wear a face covering. We recently launched a campaign to raise awareness of the exemptions that are in place for people who cannot wear face covering, which can be viewed on our Accessible Travel Hub website.
“This virus is not gone. People should remember this. I believe everyone should be wearing masks in public places. (Shops)”
“I feel safer when keeping two metres apart and with everyone wearing face coverings.”
A portion of respondents believed the one metre plus rule announced in England is confusing and open to interpretation. Respondents emphasised the need to communicate any changes to the rule in a clear and accessible manner. At Disability Equality Scotland we host the Inclusive Communication Hub (www.inclusivecommunication.scot), a website dedicated to guidance and resources to ensure communications are embedded with inclusive principles.
“We need a public message that is clearer than 1 metre plus, which is just confusing.”
“What even is 1 metre plus? How confusing for people trying to work that out.”
Some respondents stated that reducing the two-metre rule is necessary for certain businesses to reopen. As stated in the introduction, the survey was conducted prior to the announcement that the two-metre rule will be relaxed for the hospitality, retail, and public transport sectors.
“I think the mandatory use of face coverings would enable the two-metre rule to be reduced to one metre. Such a change would give those businesses, for which the two-metre rule is financially impractical, the opportunity to survive and, in doing so, provide employment to their staff.”
Reducing the rule also has benefits for people with hearing impairments.
“I think it can be reduced to one metre for all sorts of practical reasons. Particularly because hearing aids work effectively at one metre, not two.”
In conclusion, the majority of disabled people favour a cautionary approach to reduce the two-metre rule which is embedded in scientific evidence. Concerns were raised on how the two-metre rule can be maintained in environments where there is less space, such as shops and public transport. Any changes to the rule need to be communicated in a clear manner using a variety of accessible formats.