Borders hotel owner calls for two-metre social distancing rule to be halved

The owner of a luxury hotel in the Scottish Borders is calling for the two-metre social distancing rule to be reduced, if businesses in the hospitality industry are to survive when they finally reopen.

It comes as companies in the tourism sector were told by the Scottish Government to prepare to start up again on July 15.

Fergus Ewing MSP, rural economy and tourism secretary, warned “nothing can be guaranteed” amid the coronavirus pandemic and it would be subject to the infection rate.

The Scottish Government is set to give the go-ahead to the sector on July 9 - the next lockdown review.

The minister acknowledged the country's tourism industry has been “devastated” by the this period of lockdown.

But Stephen Winyard, who owns Stobo Castle Health Spa, just outside Peebles, has argued that restrictions needs to be halved if businesses are to restart successfully.

He said: "This measure will throw a lifeline to a sector that can then operate at a capacity that is viable, bearing in mind that these same businesses have been closed since the lockdown."

"If you take a restaurant, pub or hotel they would have to operate at a reduced capacity which would make it unviable for them to reopen, but by reducing it down to one metre it would make all the difference and allow them to make a living.

"I wouldn't even countenance reopening unless the social distancing is reduced by half."

Boris Johnson has said the UK government is keeping that policy under review and the World Health Organisation believes a one metre distance is safe.

But at her daily briefing Nicola Sturgeon said the advice was to stick to two metres. The First Minister said: "There is greater risk of transmission at one metre than there is at two metres.

"This is about relative risk, not about saying there is a particular distance that is absolutely safe and it's often a trade off so if you go for a shorter distance there are other things you would have to do to mitigate that."

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