(Reuters) – British pub operators have asked for social distancing rules to be halved from two metres to one in talks with government on reopening, worried that many will have to close permanently otherwise, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

The report cited Simon Emeny, chief executive of pub group Fuller’s, as saying that the rules in the country currently went “above and beyond” the World Health Organisation guidelines.

“I think it’s really important that (the rules) are relaxed by the time pubs reopen,” Emeny was quoted as saying. (https://on.ft.com/2X5O3fV)

The FT also added that Jonathan Neame, the head of pub operator Shepherd Neame, said attempting to keep people two metres away would be “profoundly challenging” and many pubs would have to remain closed.

Fuller’s and Shepherd Neame did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for a comment on the article.

A lockdown imposed in late March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has virtually halted footfall at pubs, adding to the troubles facing the sector, which was reeling under high costs on the back of higher wages and energy bills.

(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)