Cautious cuddling? England to OK hugs as lockdown eases

Cautious cuddling? England to OK hugs as lockdown eases


LONDON (AP) — In England, it's going to be time to hug again.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to give the go-ahead for that much-missed human contact when he announces the next round of lockdown easing later Monday in the wake of a sharp fall in new coronavirus infections.

The U.K. is now recording around 2,000 new coronavirus cases a day, compared with a daily peak of nearly 70,000 in January. Daily deaths have also plummeted with only two recorded on Sunday.

The country's alert level was also lowered to level three from four on Monday following a “consistent” fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths. This means that transmission of the virus is no longer deemed to be high or rising exponentially, though still being in general circulation.

While hugs between households will be allowed again beginning May 17, Johnson is expected to stress that they should be done with care, given concerns about new virus variants that could bypass some of the immunity provided by Britain's successful vaccination campaign.

Johnson is also expected to confirm that different households will be able to mix indoors in homes as well as in pubs and restaurants. However, the gatherings are to be capped at six people or two different households if that is higher. The limits on outdoor gatherings are expected to be raised to 30 people.

Indoor entertainment activities such as cinemas, soft play areas, adult group sports, exercise classes and hotels are also expected to reopen.

Since the lockdown started to be eased in recent weeks as part of a plan the government insists is being driven by “data, not dates,” the mixing of households was only allowed outdoors, such as in a garden or restaurant patio, provided that social distancing was followed.

“I think it’s what most...

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