May 12, 2021



Boris Johnson announced on Monday that people may hug each other again after more than a year of social restrictions due to the Chinese coronavirus — but they should “exercise care and common sense” when doing so.

Prime Minister Johnson confirmed that with “deaths and hospitalisations at their lowest levels since last July”, England would move into phase three of easing lockdown restrictions from Monday the 17th of May.

This means that from next week, pubs and restaurants will reopen for indoor hospitality, the limit for group gatherings has increased, and indoor businesses like cinemas and hotels can reopen. Children will also be free of mask-wearing in schools.

Guidance on “close contact” has also been updated, meaning that the government will permit friends and family to hug again.

However, while delivering the news of the restored freedoms of familial contact, Johnson scolded that “this does not mean we can suddenly throw caution to the winds.”

“In fact, more than a year into this pandemic, we all know that close contact, such as hugging, is a direct way of transmitting this disease,” he warned.

Mr Johnson added, according to The Times, that people should only hug their loved ones “if you think it’s appropriate” and the risks are “very, very low”.

“But you should exercise care and common sense. And clearly with unvaccinated people, there must be a greater risk of transmission than those who have had vaccination,” he said.

“Whatever you decide, I must ask you to continue to follow social distancing when not with friends and family.”

Prime Minister Johnson also said that, while the nation was “on track” to move to stage four on June 21st, the one-metre social distancing rule only “may” be scrapped next month. He would not commit to it at this point, even with falling hospitalisations and deaths.

Earlier this month, First Secretary of State Dominic Raab indicated that even after June 21st, other “safeguards” may still be in place after that date, including social distancing and masks, indicating that stage four would not see a return to normal — only getting “life back as close to normal as possible”.

The prime minister delivered the speech on the day that it was revealed that there had been zero daily deaths related to the Chinese virus in England, Scotland, or Northern Ireland — the first time since July. Experts hailed it as “great news and excellent progress”, according to The Guardian, with some pointing to the United Kingdom’s successful vaccine programme.

Responding to the report, Brexit leader Nigel Farage said: “Given these figures, isn’t it time we got back to normal more quickly?”

Meanwhile, the government has been conducting a review of immunity certificates for domestic use, and from next week Britons will be able to access their proof of vaccination on the NHS app on their phones for international travel.

Johnson indicated on Monday that no such decision has yet been made on ‘vaccine passports’ for going to venues such as pubs or stadiums.

“We’ll be saying more later this month about exactly what the world will look like and what role there could be — if any — for certification and social distancing,” Mr Johnson said.

In late March, Nigel Farage warned that “passports for pints” would not be tolerated and prove “unworkable”.