Brits hugging loved ones again after months of avoiding ​contact

Britons are starting to hug loved ones again: One in five adults no longer avoid others while outside – the lowest level since September, data shows

  • Proportion of people avoiding physical contact fell to lowest since September 
  • ONS figures show it fell from 92 per cent in March 14 to 82 per cent on May 3
  • Survey suggests people are maintaining hand washing and face mask wearing 

Britons are starting to hug loved ones again after months of avoiding each other because of Covid, an official survey suggests.

Office for National Statistics data released today shows the proportion of people saying they refuse physical contact to stop the virus fell to 82 per cent by May 3. 

This was the lowest level since early September and means almost one in five people now feel safe enough to touch someone they don’t live with.

For comparison, the proportion avoiding physical contact was 94 per cent on January 24 in the peak of the the UK’s second wave, and 92 per cent on March 14.

The survey shows that people in England are still just as vigilant about wearing face masks and washing their hands to when they leave the house.

But they appear to have become more lax about social distancing since the first stage of lockdown easing began on March 8.

Office for National Statistics data released today shows the proportion of people trying not to touch other people fell to 82 per cent between April 28 and May 3 — its lowest since early September

The start of the pandemic saw the Government impose a broad two metre social distancing rule which applied across all of society.  

But that rule was amended when Boris Johnson ended the first lockdown last year on July 4.

The Government continued to advise people who are not from the same household to stay two metres apart. 

But it also introduced a new ‘one metre plus’ rule for circumstances where a two-metre distance could not be stuck to.

The ‘plus’ represents taking a precautionary measure such as wearing a face mask or sitting side-by-side rather than face-to-face. 

Both rules are still in effect today but the PM has said he is hoping to be able to scrap the measures from June 21, the final stage in his lockdown exit roadmap.

People are currently encouraged to maintain at least a one metre distance from anyone not in their household or social bubble under Government guidance.

But this rule is expected to be ditched by the end of next month, with people able to sit together indoors and potentially even hug one another when the final lockdown rules are scrapped on June 21.

Asked about that possibility during a campaign visit in northern England, Boris Johnson said: ‘I think we’ve got a good chance, a good chance, of being able to dispense with one metre plus.’ 

The ONS’s survey shows the number of people maintaining social distancing while meeting up with friends fell from 88 per cent to 84 per cent between March 14 and May 3.

And there was an even bigger drop of 10 per cent in those who said they would actively avoid physical contact. The survey included 3,680 people. 

The proportion of people who said they washed their hands with soap after returning from leaving the house remained roughly the same during the same period (88 per cent to 87 per cent).

And self-reported face mask wearing increased slightly from 97 per cent to 98 per cent. 

Since people have been allowed to meet up with each other in groups of six outdoors again, the proportion of people staying at home all the time has halved from 45 per cent to 21 per cent.

More than half (56 per cent) of adults said they had met up with someone outdoors in the seven days before the survey.

This was a notable increase from the 19 per cent reported between March 10 and 14.

Adults meeting up indoors has remained relatively stable over the same period, falling slightly from 13 per cent to 10 per cent.

The one-metre-plus rule means people need to stay at least that distance apart and take other mitigating measures to prevent the spread of infections. It has been heavily criticised by the hospitality industry.

The next stage of the government’s unlocking plans is May 17, when restrictions on foreign travel are expected to be eased, but not lifted.

Speaking earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck a cautious tone ahead of that deadline.

He said: ‘We do want to do some opening up on May the 17th, but I don’t think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else. 

‘I certainly don’t. We’ve got to be very, very tough, and we’ve got to be as cautious as we can.’

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