A top public health boss has urged shoppers to not get too close to each other in supermarkets as coronavirus restrictions start to ease.

Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus said getting closer than two metres to someone in busy indoor places “even with a face covering” is “too close” and has urged people to keep their distance.

It comes after Mr McManus praised supermarkets in a press briefing on March 24 for their efforts in enforcing coronavirus rules, although said some have needed “constant reminding” about safety.

He said that “lots of reports” have been received about people getting too close to each other.

In comments made to the Watford Observer, he said it is “key” for people to continue to social distance as well as to wear a face covering “properly” to prevent the spread of the virus.

“When you get too close to someone infectious you walk into a cloud of their infectious aerosol,” he said.

“Less than two metres in busy indoor places, even with a face covering, is too close. 

“If people get too close to each other, that is enough for aerosol and droplet spread of the virus and transmission.

“Face coverings help significantly but only if worn properly and don’t eliminate all virus particles in aerosol and your eyes are still exposed. Keep your distance. All we need to do is keep our distance and wear a face covering properly and we will stop this.”

He added: “Keep those rules and we will keep reducing infections.  Forget them, and we will see numbers rise again.

“We know from multiple laboratory tests and contact tracing that people that this virus transmits very easily when people are too close.

“Standing face to face and speaking to each other, closer than 1 metre, is more than enough to transmit the virus if someone is infectious.  Face coverings properly worn will minimise that risk. Distance reduces it even further.”

Speaking in the press briefing on March 24, Mr McManus added that supermarkets are now trying "very hard indeed" to enforce the rules and said there are some who have been "really fantastic".

However, he said there are some that need "constant reminding" of the rules and that Environmental Health Officers are going into supermarkets on a regular basis.