People will be told they can hug again from May – but only if they are willing to take the risk, reports suggest.
According to The Times, the slow exit out of lockdown will see the government updating its advice on how Brits interact with friends and family no later than Step 3 of Boris Johnson’s road map on 17 May.
Rather than being ordered to keep their distance, people will be told to instead take personal responsibility and use their best judgement while being aware of the risks of COVID transmission, the paper added.
The advice will come at the same time as groups of up to 30 people will be able to meet outdoors, while groups of six will be permitted to meet indoors.
Further social distancing measures – including the two-metre rule and the wearing of masks – will be subject to a review in June.
On Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government wanted to “move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives”.
He added that while the move is “some time off”, he hopes people will be able to hug friends and family from 17 May.
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When asked when people would be able to hug their loved ones, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, I hope that will happen from 17 May, that you will be able to go and stay away. That is some time off.”
Hancock said the 17 May date is when the most vulnerable would have received both vaccine doses.
“We know that close contact is how this disease is passed on,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“And so the reason for that timing is, by then, all of the most vulnerable groups will have been able to have two jabs.
“We know from the data that was published yesterday that the first jab is very effective in helping to protect you against catching COVID, or hospitalisation, or of course dying from it.
“But the second jab adds to that protection, adds further. But we do want to be cautious until the most vulnerable groups have been able to have both of those doses.”
Under the prime minister’s road map out of lockdown, the first easing of social contact will come in the first phase of Step 1, when recreation in parks and gardens with one person from another household will be legally permitted from 8 March at the earliest as the “stay at home” order is relaxed.
Nightclubs will be among the last venues to remain shuttered, with their reopening not earmarked until Step 4.
But progress into each step is dependent on four tests: the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, an assessment of new variants, and keeping infection rates below a level that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
Figures released on Tuesday showed a total of 5,691 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 12 February mentioning COVID-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – the lowest figure since the week ending 1 January.
The figure is also down 22% from 7,320 deaths in the week to 5 February.
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