The government's top advisers during the Covid crisis have warned the public not to hug elderly relatives this Christmas "if you want them to survive to be hugged again".
Addressing a coronavirus press briefing as England's new strengthened Tier system was revealed, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said: "Hugging elderly relatives is not something you want to go out and do".
To which his colleague, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, added: "If you want them to survive to be hugged again."
The pair were being quizzed on the easing of restrictions across the UK over the festive period - in England, three households will be allowed to mix for five days.
Prof Whitty went on to stress that people should not hug and kiss their relatives at Christmas.
He said: "Would I want someone to see their family? Of course, that’s what Christmas is about, whether people celebrate Christmas as a festival themselves or from any other belief system. It is an opportunity for families.
"But would I encourage someone to hug and kiss their elderly relatives? No, I would not."
He continued: "It is not against the law – and that’s the whole point. You can do it in the rules that are there but it does not make sense because you could be carrying the virus and if you’ve got an elderly relative, that would not be the thing you want to do in the period where we’re running up to a point where we might be able to protect older people.
"I think people just have to have sense and this is very much what I think people will do."
Questioned on the easing of rules for the festive period, Boris Johnson defended the move arguing people would have celebrated Christmas even if the rules had not allowed it.
The Prime Minister said leaders of the four nations had struck a "sensible balance".
Mr Johnson appeared to back his advisers on their advice around hugging relatives, calling the rules agreed "a sensible balance," he added: "But it depends, as Chris (Whitty) and Patrick (Vallance) have really tried to stress in this session, on all of us being common sensical and doing the right thing."
The PM used the briefing to warn a second national lockdown in the New Year would be the result of easing restrictions any further.
But still Mr Johnson faces fierce criticism of his reworked Tier system - including a potential revolt from his own MPs when the measures are voted on in Parliament next week.