Hugging friends and family will be allowed again in just over a fortnight after more than a year of social distancing measures forcing loved ones apart, a government source has said.
Ministers are reportedly confident that the success of the UK’s vaccine programme will enable them to approve the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown on May 17.
It comes after England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam urged the public to hold on “a teeny bit longer,” sparking speculation that physical contact might be off limits until June 21.
But with Britain’s daily death rate plummeting almost two thirds in a week and 34million vaccinated, the government is expected to bring plans forward sooner.
A government source told The Times : “The data is looking very good. The scientists say we’re on track for the next stage, unless something changes dramatically.”
From May 17, indoor mixing between two households or six people from different households is set to be given the green light.
Under the current plans parties of up to 30 meeting outdoors will be given the go ahead and cinemas, museums, galleries and hotels can open their doors to visitors.
And physical contact between loved ones is also set to be allowed from the May date, ending what will have been for some more than a year apart.
Official government guidance on social distancing between friends and family states that the advice will be reviewed and updated by May 17.
But Brits will still be advised to socially distance on public transport, at work and with strangers as most young people wait for their first jab.
June 21 is currently the date set for the last step of the government’s roadmap to exiting lockdown and when all legal limits on social contact are hoped to be lifted.
It comes as it was announced an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus jab have been secured for a booster vaccination programme in the autumn.
Speaking at a Downing Street press briefing on Wednesday, Prof Van-Tam said: “We are really in very low levels that are comparable to where we were in September last year.
“We are running as a typical seven-day average at just over 2,000 people testing positive per day.”
The weekly total for infection rates has fallen 10.7 per cent from last week’s, with 2,381 new confirmed cases reported on Thursday.
An Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey yesterday showed that the number of people testing positive for Covid has dropped 40 per cent – the biggest percentage fall so far.