No hugs at Easter: why it's not ok to stop social distancing

Credit: PA

Rules on social distancing, forbidding close physical contact with people outside your household or social bubble, sadly remain in place, due to the high risk of transmitting Coronavirus.

That's despite the lockdown roadmap progressing according to plan so far, with meet ups now allowed between six people or two households outdoors, outdoor sports facilities back open, and people no longer required to stay at home.

So families can now meet up over the Easter holidays, but we're being warned to hold back, remember the rules, and not push the easing of restrictions further than permitted - which means no hugs, no going inside, and respecting the cap on numbers.

A further 56 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, according to government figures.

It brings the total number since the beginning of the pandemic to 126,670.

There have been a further 4,040 new reported cases of coronavirus in the UK as of Tuesday, bringing the total number since the beginning of the pandemic to more than 4.3 million.

Six people can now meet outside

  • What's the risk of hugging someone?

Social distancing between people of two metres, or one metre plus, has been at the heart of the Covid restrictions and safeguards since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Hugging someone means you're in very close contact, and so air borne transmission of the virus is greatly increased, if someone infected coughs, talks or breathes. The closer you are, the greater the risk of breathing in infected particles.

Katie Spence, Deputy Director with Public Health England in the West Midlands, says that 1/3 people with Covid don't show symptoms, so we must keep our distance regardless of how we feel.

Sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, speaking on behalf of the government, said

"Uncomfortable as it is, please don't do the hugging, because what you're doing is risking the health of the very people that you love. It's just a matter of time. We'll be looking at social distancing and other measures as time goes on."

Credit: PA

What about if I've had my vaccine?

Even if you've had two does of the vaccine, you may still be able to pass on the virus, says Katie Spence.

It can take a few weeks for the vaccine to protect you after having it, and although the vaccines have demonstrated a high level of protection against coronavirus - no vaccine provides 100% protection.

Although 30 million people have had the vaccine - more than half the population, the remainder are still at risk.

  • What are the hygiene rules?

The new government mantra is "hands, face, space, fresh air", focussing on the difference remaining outside can make to transmission rates.

"The closer you are to people, the greater the risk of breathing in infected particles. When we are outdoors, the risk of infection is significantly lower as fresh air disperses and blows COVID-19 particles away, and we have more space to social distance from each other."

- Professor Catherine Noakes, Leeds University

Katie Spence hopes the good weather will remain, to encourage people to stay outside.

  • try to stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with (or anyone not in your support bubble)

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds

  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

  • wash your hands as soon as you get home

  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards

  • let fresh air into your home by opening windows, doors and air vents as much as possible

A former government advisor has said people should be able to hug again when case numbers are "very, very low".

Professor Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser to the government, said there are still around 5,000 cases a day in the UK.

When asked what he would consider "very, very low" to be, he said, "Well, how long is a piece of string?" but confirmed he meant "significantly lower" than at the moment.

From mid-May, people could be allowed to hug and get close to one another - the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has said. That's because most vulnerable groups are expected to have received both coronavirus vaccine doses by then.

At the same time, (17 May, or five weeks after Step 2), two households or groups of up to six people could be allowed to mix indoors.

It's hoped social distancing measures will all be removed by June 21st, if the roadmap continues to progress to plan.

  • Communities most at risk of Coronavirus speak out, urging people to take the vaccine.

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