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The government is being urged to ease social distancing for musicians, so more of them can get back performing and recording.

Musicians’ Union leader Horace Trubridge told the BBC they could play “side by side” to lessen the risk of spreading coronavirus.

The 2m rule was “overkill” at a “bleak” time for his members, he added.

The government said it welcomed “creative and innovative” ideas to help the UK’s “brilliant” musicians.

Coronavirus means theatres, pubs, clubs and other indoor music venues will be closed for the foreseeable future, while promoters have cancelled all the UK’s main festivals.

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The Labour-affiliated Musicians’ Union is in talks with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport over “enhanced busking” – allowing spectators in outdoor spaces to make contactless payments for individual and group performances.

“They seem to be keen on that,” Mr Trubridge said, adding that councils could “relax their bylaws” to help “get live music back into the public’s consciousness”.

He argued it was difficult to see a way of easing social distancing for audiences to make theatres and venues viable during the pandemic, but that this was not the case for performers.

“There’s no finesse about the 2m rule at the moment,” Mr Trubridge said. “If you’re in a line rather than looking at each other, then it seems to be overkill.”

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Parks could become venues for “enhanced busking”, the Musicians’ Union says

The World Health Organisation recommends a distance of 1m between people from different households, but the UK is sticking to the 2m rule.

Mr Trubridge said this distance was particularly unnecessary for string and percussion instrumentalists, as opposed to singers, as they could wear masks.

Many musicians had been earning £20,000 a year or less even before coronavirus, and some were missing out on furlough payments and loans, he said, adding: “I can’t see anything really significant happening this year to help them out of this hole.”

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “These are challenging times for the UK’s world-class music industry, and we are providing unprecedented support through substantial financial measures such as the Self-Employed Income Support and Bounce Back loan schemes.”

They added: “We welcome creative and innovative ideas on how we can support our talented musicians.”