Hugging loved ones could be allowed from mid-May as this is when the most vulnerable groups are expected to have received both coronavirus vaccine doses, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Limited social mixing indoors will be permitted again in England from May 17 at the earliest, which is around the stage people will be given advice on close contact between friends and family, according to the Government’s road map.
Mr Hancock said ministers would remain “cautious” until the most vulnerable have received both doses of the vaccine, and gave this as a reason for the timing.
Asked about May 17 as a potential date for hugging to be allowed, he told BBC Breakfast: “We know that close contact is how this disease is passed on.
“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.”
Household mixing will not be permitted indoors until step three – not before May 17 – when people will be able to meet socially in a group of six or with one other household.
Around this stage, ministers will review social distancing rules between friends and family, potentially allowing hugging to return for the first time since the first lockdown in March last year.
“As soon as possible, and no later than step three, the Government will update its advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging,” it says.
“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.”
Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he hoped staying overnight with friends and family would be permitted from May 17.
“So I appreciate that that is some time, but that is the earliest that we thought it was safe to be able to take that step,” he added.