Hugging friends and family members has been off the table for Britons since last March. People in England could however soon be able to hug their loved ones again after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his four-step lockdown easing plan. The PM said England is going to start “reclaiming our freedoms” with a date for the easing of all legal limits placed on people’s social contact outlined in the roadmap.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his four-step plan to release England from lockdown on February 22.
The first step of the plan will begin on March 8 with the reopening of all schools and colleges.
From this time, two people will also be permitted to meet outdoors for a chat.
When these two people meet, they will be allowed to sit down for coffee, drink or picnic, as opposed to only meet for exercise, which is the rule currently in effect.
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Coronavirus is spread from person to person through small droplets, aerosols and through direct contact.
Surfaces and belongings can also be contaminated with COVID-19 when people with the infection cough or sneeze or touch them.
The risk of spread is greatest when people are close to each other, especially in poorly ventilated indoor spaces and when people spend a lot of time together in the same room.
Given this risk during close contact, hugging is not permitted for those from different households or support bubbles.
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Mr Johnson’s roadmap outlines the Government will continually review the data in regards to lockdown easing.
The following four conditions will need to be reviewed and met in order for the next step to be taken in the easing plan:
The coronavirus vaccine programme continuing to go to plan
Vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying with the virus or needing hospital treatment
Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions
New coronavirus variants do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions.
In regards to hugging, the roadmap outlines the steps Government will take to ease limits on social contact at step three, which is due to begin from May 17.
The Government advises it will remain important for people to consider the risks for themselves, taking into account whether they and those they meet have been vaccinated or are at greater risk.
The guidance reads: “The Government will continually review the evidence of vaccine efficacy, including its impact on transmission.
“As soon as possible, and no later than Step 3, the Government will update its advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging.
“Until then, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble, and keep up habits such as regular hand washing and letting in fresh air.”
Social distancing is widely expected to stay in place until June with Boris Johnson hoping to have vaccinated all adults by the end of July.
Scientists have advised Britons to remain two metres apart to avoid catching and spreading the virus.
From June 21, the Government hopes there will no longer be any remaining legal limits on social contact, enabling nightclubs and other large-scale events to take place.
Mr Johnson said: “With appropriate mitigations, we will aim to remove all legal limits on social contact, and on weddings and other life events.
“We will reopen everything up to and including nightclubs, and enable large events such as theatre performances above the limits of Step 3, potentially using testing to reduce the risk of infection.”