Boris Johnson is reportedly preparing to significantly relax the coronavirus lockdown and reopen the economy over the coming fortnight.
It comes after the UK’s coronavirus alert level was reduced today for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
A Government source told the Daily Mail that its scientific advisers are now “totally comfortable” with relaxing the two-metre rule, after the threat from Covid-19 was downgraded from level four to three.
It is understood that scientists have given their approval to reduce the distance people need to stay apart to one metre, if other precautions are taken.
This is likely to include more widespread use of face masks, screens and making sure buildings are ventilated.
The measure is one of several that the PM is expected to announce over the next two weeks in an attempt to revive the economy and return to a “new normal”.
Earlier today, Mr Johnson said he wanted all children in England to return to school on a five-dayss-a-week basis in September.
Meanwhile, ministers are said to be negotiating holiday “air bridges” with 10 other countries to allow travel overseas, while the Welsh Government has announced it wants to restart tourism next month.
A Whitehall source has also told the paper that two families could be allowed to visit each other at home as part of expanded “support bubbles”.
Health officials are also preparing to write to more than two million people who are currently shielding due to health conditions, telling them they can soon venture outside to shop and enjoy leisure activities.
It comes after the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers for the four nations of the UK agreed to reduce the coronavirus threat level as the number of new infections continues to slow.
The downgrading – recommended by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) – means the Covid-19 epidemic is in “general circulation”, but transmission is no longer “high or rising exponentially”.
However, advisers have warned that localised outbreaks of Covid-19 are still “likely” to occur.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock boasted it is a “big moment for the country, and a real testament to the British people’s determination to beat this virus.”
Earlier today, the Prime Minister dropped his strongest hint yet that the two-metre social distancing rule could be dropped.
On a visit to Bovingdon Primary School in Hertfordshire on Friday, he told the public to “watch this space” when asked if the measure could be relaxed to help schools in England return in autumn.
A Downing Street team is already running an urgent review of the two-metre rule, which is expected to conclude next week.
The review could see the recommended distance between people in shops and outdoor spaces cut to a level seen in other European countries.
It comes after warnings from the hospitality industry and MPs that thousands of pubs, restaurants and cafes would go bust if forced to re-open while the two-metre rule is still in place.
The Government is now understood to be pressing ahead with plans to re-open the hospitality industry on July 4.
The latest official coronavirus figures show the UK daily death toll is still in the three figures after 173 new fatalities were reported today.
It brings the UK’s total death toll to 42,461 fatalities since the outbreak began.