Boris Johnson has announced that the government will permit hugging from Monday 17 May. In subsequent weeks, it is expected that permission will be granted for people to hold hands, kiss and, perhaps, engage in even more intimate acts of mutual appreciation. However, the authorities remain cautious about mutant variants and their ability to spread through rampant hugging. 

Former SAGE expert and BBC commentator, Neil Ferguson, has played a key role in government policy throughout the pandemic. Initially responsible for producing forecasts that led to social distancing policies, Ferguson is also rumoured to have performed a series of covert, close contact experiments with his married girlfriend. The results of these experiments – conducted at the height of lockdown – have given us the reassurance we need that it is OK to hug. Indeed, why stop there? 

The government has insisted that restrictions on social distancing will be lifted in response to ‘data not dates’. Initially, we thought this meant that the speed with which restrictions are lifted would be determined by the number of Covid infections and deaths. However, now that Covid infections are minimal and deaths, on some days, are non-existent, it is apparent that it means the management of intimate relationships by guideline ‘data’. 

Specialist in Airborne infections Catherine Noakes has shared a series of tips on how to hug ‘in moderation’ in a way that does not ‘perpetuate additional close contact’: she instructs us to ‘keep it short, try not to hug face to face and perhaps turn your head away slightly.’ Further guidance is expected on how we can ‘do spoons’, with the use of actual spoons instead of your partner.

It is possible that dating will soon be sanctioned again, but only if accompanied by the appropriate data. Prospective couples may be required to display their vaccination certificates along with any attractive features they possess. Perhaps they could wear a green badge, to show that they are ‘Covid clean’, and take a swab test before they proceed more intimate activities. In time, full disclosure of NHS health records could be required, including STDs, mental health and any genetic conditions important to those starting out on a new relationship. We could all demand full medical data disclosure, before risking romance.

Although the government is giving us licence to hug once more, it is urging caution. Rigorous consultation of the guidelines before engaging in spontaneous acts of affection will ensure that our lives swiftly return to normal.