Hug with ‘care and common sense,’ Boris Johnson says as lockdown rules for England ease


Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during a virtual news conference inside 10 Downing Street, in central London, Britain, March 18, 2021.
Tolga Akmen

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday that England will be moving to the next stage of its coronavirus lockdown easing program on May 17.

Indoor facilities such as movie theaters and hotels will reopen, but with some capacity limits in place. Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to welcome customers inside again, and indoor household mixing will be allowed to resume for groups of up to six people.

People will also be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people.

Johnson said social distancing rules will remain for public places, but people can make their own judgement in private.

When asked about hugging, Johnson said at a news conference Monday, “People should do it if you think it’s appropriate, if you think 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 with those who have had vaccination,” he added.

Johnson was heavily criticized for the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, and with more than 127,000 reported fatalities, Britain has one of the worst death rates in Europe and the world.

But Johnson has also been at the forefront of a successful vaccination campaign, with more than 50% of the country’s population now having received at least one dose of a vaccine.

International travel is able to resume next Monday in most circumstances, although quarantines and testing would be required on return to the U.K., for the most part. The government has said it hopes to lift all restrictions on social contact by June 21.

Around midday Monday, the U.K.’s chief medical officers agreed to lower the country’s Covid-19 alert level from 4 — which means transmission is high or rising exponentially — to level 3, which means the epidemic is in general circulation.

— CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this article.

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