Coronavirus: Hugging could be allowed with family and friends from 17 May, report says

Family and friends in England will be allowed to hug each other again next month in the first major relaxation of social distancing restrictions in more than a year, according to a report.

The Times reported on Friday that ministers were expected to move forward with Step 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown roadmap from 17 May, with approval for people to have physical contact with friends and family from other households.

However, people will still be advised to maintain social distancing while on public transport and at work.

“The data is looking very good. The scientists say we’re on track for the next stage, unless something changes dramatically,” a government source told the newspaper.

The government’s roadmap out of lockdown restrictions previously said it would review social distancing guidelines “by no later than Step 3” of the plan.

“As soon as possible and by no later than Step 3, we will also update the advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging,” it said.

“But until this point, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble.”

Earlier this month, Boris Johnson said he could not see “any reason” to change the roadmap or “to deviate from the targets that we have set ourselves”.

However, the prime minister insisted that people needed to remain cautious through the coming months as the UK’s vaccine rollout continues.

“It is very, very important that, if we are to get there in the way that we all want, people continue to be cautious and they continue to exercise restraint and just do the basic things to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.

If the lockdown easing in England does go ahead, indoor hospitality such as pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen serving groups of six people or up to two households.

Cinemas, museums, galleries and theatres will also be allowed to reopen for the first time since the third national lockdown in January.

On Friday, the Office for National Statistics’ weekly survey showed the number of people in England estimated to have Covid-19 had dropped 40 per cent in a week, falling to the lowest level since early September 2020.

The ONS data, which covers private households, showed an estimated 54,200 people were likely to have tested positive for the coronavirus in the week to 24 April, down from 90,000 the previous week.

Meanwhile, party goers in Liverpool took part in the first legal rave in more than a year as part of a trial to pave the way for clubs across the country to reopen their doors this summer.

Attendees, who had to produce negative coronavirus tests to gain entry, were allowed to not wear face coverings and ignore social distancing for the first time since March 2020.

Additional reporting by PA

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