Matt Hancock: Bubble idea will help relieve 'anguish' of people wanting to see grandparents or partners
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the household “bubble” idea will help relieve the “anguish” of people wanting to see their grandparents or partners.
The British government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has been asked to look at the idea of a household “bubble” in the coming weeks, where one household is allowed to join up with and interact with one other household only.
Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “The principle behind this bubble idea, which we are looking at with the scientists to see how big an impact it would have on R, the principle is that if you’re in one household and essentially you don’t see anybody from outside your household, and then there’s another household – say it’s another part of your family – and they don’t see anyone from outside their household, then the risk is lower of those two households meeting each other, so long as they don’t form a chain and don’t see people in other households.
“It will help if we can do it in a way that doesn’t impact on R. I think it will help with this anguish of a lot of people wanting to see family members in another household, whether that’s a grandparent – although there are the risks for older grandparents – or for people who are in a relationship but are in different households, and I understand that yearning as well.”
Mr Hancock said the Government had restricted people to seeing only one person from outside their household at a time in the new measures in order to stop mass gatherings.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “What we don’t want is large groups of people gathering, and you have to make a judgment to what is reasonable and where to set the rules.
“It is perfectly reasonable to have a rule that only one individual can meet up with one other, at that two-metre distance, and outside is safer than inside because the science is clear that, although the risks are not zero, there is a lower risk to people being outside.
“Therefore, a rule that you can only meet up with one other person just protects everybody against that burgeoning into large groups of people.”
Any shift to the “bubble” plan allowing residents of one household to mix with those of one other would be “highly conditional” on the coronavirus infection rate being kept down and the reproduction rate of the virus – the R value – remaining below one, Downing Street later said.
“Before we reach any decisions on what has been described as the ‘bubble’ plan, we would need to look at what the impact would be on the overall infection rate and on R,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
Experts from Sage are examining the New Zealand-style plan but it would not be considered until the next step in the Government’s road map.
“This is all highly conditional, we will only be able to take the second and the third step if everybody follows the rules on social distancing and we are able to keep the infection rate under control and the R rate down below one,” the spokesman said.