UK on course to ditch social distancing rule in June - PM Johnson

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Watch: UK on course to ditch social distancing in June

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain is on course to ditch the COVID-19 social distancing rule requiring people to stay at least one metre apart towards the end of next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday. 

  Johnson's government has set out a roadmap to end lockdown restrictions in stages as widespread vaccinations help to suppress infections. 

  June 21 has been set as a date when social distancing could end. 

  Asked about that possibility during a campaign visit in northern England, Johnson said: "I think we've got a good chance, a good chance, of being able to dispense with one-metre plus." 

  The one-metre plus rule means people need to stay at least that distance apart and take other mitigating measures to prevent the spread of infections. It has been heavily criticised by the hospitality industry. 

  The next stage of the government's unlocking plans is May 17, when restrictions on foreign travel are expected to be eased, but not lifted. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (fourth left) gestures as he campaigns on behalf of Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer (centre) in Hartlepool, in the north-east of England ahead of the 2021 Hartlepool by-election to be held on May 6. Picture date: Monday May 3, 2021.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (fourth left) gestures as he campaigns on behalf of Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer (centre) in Hartlepool, in the north-east of England ahead of the 2021 Hartlepool by-election to be held on May 6. Picture date: Monday May 3, 2021.

  Johnson struck a cautious tone ahead of that deadline. 

  "We do want to do some opening up on May the 17th, but I don't think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else. I certainly don't. We've got to be very, very tough, and we've got to be as cautious as we can," he said. 

  Amid campaigning, Johnson has faced questions about who paid for the refurbishment of his apartment and childcare for his young son. 

  Campaigning ahead of an election for a parliamentary seat and local government elections, he declined to answer questions about opposition Labour Party allegations of sleaze. 

  "All this kind of stuff is absolutely not relevant," he said, adding that voters wanted to focus on policies ahead of the elections on Thursday. 

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