Hugs with family and friends and indoor socialising are expected to be allowed from next week as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces further easing of coronavirus restrictions in England.
The next stage of the road map out of lockdown is expected to go ahead as planned in a week’s time, with ministers to hold a meeting on Monday morning to agree the next set of measures.
From May 17, most social contact rules outdoors will be lifted, although gatherings of more than 30 will remain illegal.
Indoors, the rule of six or two households will apply, with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove suggesting physical contact between friends and family will be allowed.
Indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes are expected to reopen.
Other measures include allowing up to 30 people to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals.
The Government said the latest data suggests easing restrictions from May 17 is unlikely to risk a resurgence in infections.
It comes as latest figures show a third of UK adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with a total of 17,669,379 people having received both jabs – the equivalent of 33.5% of all people aged 18 and over.
England and Northern Ireland are both estimated to have given two doses to 33.6% of their adult population, slightly ahead of Wales (33.4%) and Scotland (33.1%).
The milestone was described as “a testament to the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff and volunteers” by Mr Johnson, while health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is “yet more evidence of the huge national vaccination effort we are in the middle of”.
More than 50 million vaccine doses have been administered in the UK as the Government said it is on track to offer all adults a first dose by the end of July.
Mr Johnson is set to host a press conference on Monday afternoon to confirm the further easing of restrictions.
He said: “The road map remains on track, our successful vaccination programme continues – more than two-thirds of adults in the UK have now had the first vaccine – and we can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly.
“It’s because of the British public’s unwavering commitment that we are saving lives, protecting the NHS and controlling the virus.”
The Government said infection rates are at the lowest level since September and hospital admissions and patients continue to decrease, or plateau at low levels in some areas, with levels similar to July last year.
Figures show a further two people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, bringing the UK total to 127,605, with a further 1,770 lab-confirmed cases.