Social distancing rules in England could soon be scrapped entirely, with the “one metre-plus” social distancing being removed along with restrictions on customer numbers for pubs and restaurants, according to reports.

According to The Times, the “one metre-plus” social distancing rule currently in force in England will be scrapped from June 21, in a bid to help all restaurants, pubs, theatres and cinemas south of the Border to reopen fully.

However, masks will still be required in order to "mitigate the risks", and foreign secretary Dominic Raab yesterday confirmed that some restrictions would need to stay in place beyond June 21.

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “By the time we get to June 21 almost all social restrictions will be lifted so there’s only a little bit more time to go, but it’s right to make sure we do that in a careful way.”

He acknowledged that the rollout of vaccines has increased the temptation for still prohibited social interactions outside individuals’ households including “hugging your loved ones that you haven’t been able to do for a while”.

HeraldScotland:

“I do think we just need to make sure that in the last lap, if you like, that we are careful and we don’t lose the gains we’ve made,” he added.

Mr Raab added “some safeguards” may stay in place when legal restrictions end, such as continued use of masks and physical distancing.

According to The Times, this means theatre and cinema audiences must wear face coverings during performances and there will be strict guidance on ventilation and staggered entry.

The publication also understands that pubs and restaurants may retain certain safeguards including one-way systems, screens and mask-wearing - but says there will be no restrictions on customer numbers.

Boris Johnson is expected to be presented with the recommendations as part of an interim report looking at the success of recent trials, including events held without social distancing.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, has said a return to unrestricted trading on June 21 is “critical” and will mean firms in the industry can “come off life support”.

Ms Nicholls said: “These reports are very welcome if true. However, we must wait to see the full detail of plans as any restrictions in venues will continue to impact revenue and business viability.

“A return to unrestricted trading on 21 June is critical and will mean hospitality businesses come off life support and be viable for the first time in almost 16 months.

“We urge the Government to confirm reopening dates and these plans at the earliest opportunity, which will boost confidence and allow companies to step up planning and bring staff back.”

However, big events will still have a cap on numbers after June 21, meaning Wembley Stadium will be half empty for the European Championship final on July 11.

Uefa was reportedly told that crowd sizes will be limited to 45,000.

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Restrictions in Scotland

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon has repeated her assertion that Scotland needs “serious leadership” as restrictions are set to be eased.

Following the election, the first major decision of the new Scottish Government would be to approve changes to coronavirus rules due to come into force on May 17 – a choice which has usually been announced the Tuesday before the changes are made.

The changes, which will see Scotland move to Level 2, include allowing four people from two households to meet indoors for the first time since last year, along with increasing the number of people who can meet outdoors.

With just three days left before Scotland goes to the polls and the SNP saying the election was on a “knife edge”, the First Minister sought to put her experience in office since 2014 and her handling of the coronavirus pandemic front and centre.

“The first job of a newly elected government will be to decide on whether we are ready to lift restrictions even further on the 17th May,” she said.

“That’s why I believe Scotland needs serious leadership for serious times.”

READ MORE: 'Nonsense': Sturgeon rejects claims an independent Scotland could not procure Covid vaccine

Cases in Scotland have reduced rapidly since the beginning of the year, along with deaths, hospital admissions and intensive care treatment as the vaccination programme has inoculated more than 60% of the population, leading Ms Sturgeon to say she is “confident that the country is on the right track, and we will be able to take further steps to free up society and allow our economy to begin to recover”.

She added: “We have come together over the last year to get through the pandemic together, with people going to extraordinary lengths, whether working in our NHS, frontline services, working and schooling from home or making huge personal sacrifices.

“If we apply the same approach to recovery, and all come together to build a better, fairer society then there is nothing that Scotland cannot achieve.”

Nicola Sturgeon previously told MSPs that it is the Scottish Government’s “hope and ambition” to move Scotland to Level 1 from early June, and then “at least” Level 0 by the end of that month.

What is Level 0 and what does it mean for rules in Scotland?

The First Minister stressed that “some restrictions” would remain even in Level 0.

Currently, according to the Scottish Government website, Level 0 means that things like social distancing and mask wearing will still be enforced.

However, indoor gatherings will be possible for up to eight people from three households, with outdoor meetings permitted for a maximum of 15 people from five households.

Nightclubs are still closed, while working from home remains the primary advice.

When could the rules end in Scotland?

The First Minister said it was hoped that Scotland could go beyond Level 0 restrictions, "with a view to restoring as much normality as possible.”

Last month she told MSPs there was “increasing expectation” that the vaccination programme coupled with the effective use of Test and Protect and good hygiene measures, should allow Scotland to keep the virus “under much greater control”.

She added: “This will allow us to enjoy many of the things that we took for granted before the pandemic – for example, normal family gatherings where we can hug our loved ones, sporting events, gigs and nightclubs.

“For me to set out a precise date for all of that right now would involve plucking it out of thin air - and I’d be doing it to make my life easier, not yours.

“I am not going to do that. But I do believe that over the coming weeks - as more and more adults are vaccinated - it will be possible to set a firmer date by which many of these normal things will be possible.

“And I am optimistic that this date will be over the summer.”

She went on: “I know I will not be the only one now looking forward - with a real sense of hope - to hugging my family this summer.

“I know how difficult the last few months have been. And I will never underestimate – or stop being grateful for – the hard, painful sacrifices that everyone has made.

“As we move into the summer an even greater degree of normality - hopefully something much closer to actual normality, with the ability to hug those we love - will become possible. All of that should fill us with optimism.

“This is certainly the most hopeful I have felt about the situation for a long time.”