Hug with ‘care and common sense,’ Boris Johnson says

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson briefs on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during a virtual press conference at 10 Downing Street in central London on March 18, 2021.

Tolga Akmen

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that England will move into the next phase of its program to ease the coronavirus lockdown on May 17th.

Indoor facilities such as cinemas and hotels are reopening, but with some capacity constraints. Pubs and restaurants are allowed to welcome customers back indoors, and indoor mixing is allowed to resume for groups of up to six people.

People can also meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people.

Johnson said the social distancing rules for public spaces remain in place, but people can make their own judgment in private.

When asked about the hug, Johnson said at a news conference Monday, “People should do it when they see fit, when they think the risks are very, very small.”

“But you should use care and common sense. And people who are not vaccinated must have a clearly higher risk of transmission than those who have been vaccinated,” he added.

Johnson has been heavily criticized for the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic. With more than 127,000 reported deaths, the UK 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 that saw more than 50% of the country’s population receive at least one dose of vaccine.

International travel can be resumed next Monday in most cases, although quarantines and testing would for the most part be required upon return to the UK. The government hopes to lift all restrictions on social contact by June 21st.

Around noon on Monday, UK chief medical officers agreed to lower the country’s Covid-19 alert level from 4 – meaning transmission is high or increasing exponentially – to level 3, meaning the epidemic is in general circulation.

– CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this article.

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