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Boris Johnson lists 'cautious hugging' among easing of COVID restrictions

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UK PM Boris Johnson
UK PM Boris Johnson   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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People in Britain will be able to hug each other "with caution" from May 17, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.

Johnson was holding a press conference discussing the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions which include a relaxation of the size of gatherings and the reopening of pubs and restaurants.

Falling infection rates and good vaccine coverage have seen the UK's COVID-19 situation improve.

Earlier on Monday, the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales said the UK’s COVID alert level could be lowered from four to three.

Hugging

Johnson has announced that friends and family will be allowed to hug each other again for the first time in 14 months but he urged caution. Although many social distancing rules will remain in public places such as pubs and restaurants, the PM highlighted that more than half the UK population have had at least one vaccine.

The announcement also means changes to the so-called "bubbles" that have been in place since early January. These are the agreed group of people with which you live, socialise or rely on for support.

From May 17, Johnson said groups of up to six people, or two households, can meet indoors rather than just outdoors.

This change means people in England can visit family or friends elsewhere in the country and stay overnight.

The lockdown easing means up to six people will be able to meet inside pubs, cafes and restaurants from May 17; the first time this year. Pubs will be required to provide table service only but customers won’t need to buy a meal.

Number of people in hospital in the UK with COVID-19

For British people hoping to have a holiday in the UK the change of rules will allow the opening of many more venues. Because Boris Johnson has said people from different bubbles can stay overnight it means more hotels, hostels and bed & breakfast accommodation can open.

Wedding receptions and other events can go ahead with up to 30 attendees but the limit on the number of mourners allowed at a funeral will be lifted on May 17, Johnson says.

At the moment only 30 people can attend but from next week the venues will be asked to determine the limits on how many people can attend safely.

Johnson said that from May 17 gyms, saunas and spas can fully reopen. Indoor sports and exercise classes can also begin again.

Indoor entertainment venues will be able to open but safety measure such as masks and social distancing may remain in place.

Major events such as sporting fixtures can be attended by fans from May 17 with a maximum capacity of 4,000 people or a half-full venue. Some very large venues may allow up to 10,000 people.