Hug ‘carefully’ when restrictions on physical contact are lifted, says Matt Hancock

Personal contact allowed from Monday, but experts say precautions still needed

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Sunday 16 May 2021 12:10

Matt Hancock has advised people to be “careful” when hugging others after restrictions on physical contact are lifted on Monday.

The health secretary confirmed that he plans to hug his parents when the curb is ended after more than a year, but said he would do it outside in order to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Experts say that hugging should be restricted to small numbers of people - probably family members and close friends - and should be kept brief to improve safety.

People should hug outside or in well-ventilated areas with their faces turned away from one another and should consider wearing face-coverings of one of them is medically vulnerable.

Mr Hancock told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “We should all be careful, we all know the risks. Outside is safer than inside, so even though you can from tomorrow, meet up inside, it’s still better to meet up outside.

“Of course there are people who have been yearning to have some physical contact. You should do that carefully. If you’ve had both jabs more than two weeks ago, that’s much safer.”

The 42-year-old health secretary revealed he got into trouble with his father for suggesting that it was only his mother he was looking forward to hugging on Monday.

“I was asked on Tuesday and I said the thing I’m really looking forward to is hugging my Mum, she’s had two jabs ,” he told Ridge. “Actually, Dad got quite upset about that. I’m really looking forward to hugging you as well, Dad. But we’ll probably do it outside and keep the ventilation going: Hands, face and space.”

Mr Hancock added: “We all have a personal responsibility, we all know now the sorts of things that are riskier but we’re able because the case numbers are so low to move away from some of the more restrictive interventions.

“I think personal responsibility is an important mantra here because people have been so responsible through the crisis and they’ve really listened and followed the guidance and instructions that the prime minister set out, and that’s the approach we should take together.”

Former chief scientific adviser Professor Sir Mark Walport said people need to be “sensibly cautious” when rules on social contact are relaxed on Monday.

The Sage member told Ridge: “Complete normality I think is going to take a bit of time to return, and people have got to be sensibly cautious I think.

“Well my advice is that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

“As far as possible socialise outside, maintain social distancing, if you’re going to hug, hug cautiously.”

New guidance in place from 17 May on meeting friends and family will lift rules on physical contact, instead asking individuals to exercise “personal responsibility”.

“Instead of instructing you to stay two metres apart from anyone you don’t live with, you will be encouraged to exercise caution and consider the guidance on risks associated with Covid-19 and actions you can take to help keep you and your loved ones safe,” say the guidelines.

“Remember that the risks of close contact may be greater for some people than others and in some settings and circumstances, there will be specific guidance that you will need to follow even when you are with friends and family.”

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