Boris Johnson will announce on Tuesday which sectors of England’s economy can reopen from 4 July – and he is expected to set out a reduction in the two-metre social distancing rule.
Labour have said that “under certain circumstances” they would support moving to one metre.
In line with the government’s roadmap for lifting the lockdown, 4 July marks the start of “phase three” when some hospitality businesses can reopen, likely to include pubs and restaurants.
The government says it will publish detailed guidance to ensure these companies are “COVID secure”.
The prime minister is due to seek advice from experts and finalise the changes on Monday, before seeking approval from his Cabinet and outlining the plans to parliament on Tuesday.
Other nations of the UK have yet to change their two-metre guidance.
But both Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her counterpart in Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, are considering a reduction.
A Number 10 spokesperson said: “The reason we are able to move forward this week is because the vast majority of people have taken steps to contain the virus.
“The more we open up, the more important it is that everyone follows the social distancing rules.
“We will not hesitate to put the handbrake on to stop the virus running out of control.”
It comes as a new pilot for a “swab-free” coronavirus test launches in Southampton.
Participants will be able to get a test every week by transferring saliva into a pot at home.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new technique is less complicated than using a swab and “could potentially make it even easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home”.
“This trial will also help us learn if routine, at-home testing could pick up cases of the virus earlier,” he added.
On the coronavirus lockdown, Mr Hancock told Sky News that the government is “on track” to ease restrictions further from 4 July.
Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday, he said this could include pubs and restaurants reopening – as well as people being able to get haircuts again.
“We’re clearly on track for that plan because of the number of cases coming down and the plan does refer to hospitality and some of the other things that are closed that so many people want to see open,” Mr Hancock said.
A further 43 people who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in the UK, it was announced on Sunday, bringing the country’s official coronavirus death toll to 42,632.
On pubs, the health secretary said ministers were looking at a number of measures to ensure it is “safe” for them to reopen.
This includes having to register before going for a pint.
“That’s the sort of thing we’re looking at for how do you make it safe to open things,” Mr Hancock told Ridge.
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