'All depends on how you do it': UEA expert's advice on hugging safely
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The government's guidance around hugging is expected to change from Monday, May 17 but the advice from a Norwich virus expert is "if you don't really need to hug, then don't."
From May 17, most social contact rules outdoors will be lifted and indoor socialising is expected to be permitted.
Indoors, the rule of six or two households will apply, with cabinet office minister Michael Gove suggesting physical contact between friends and family, ie hugging, will be allowed.
The shift in advice will be a welcome change for many, who in some cases have gone months without hugging loved ones but Professor Paul Hunter, from the UEA's Norwich Medical School, has said people still need to be cautious.
He said: "The evidence on whether hugs are or aren't risky is not really there, for me it all depends on how you do it.
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"The first thing is if you can get by without [hugging] then don't do it."
Prof Hunter said a lot depended on people's approach to greeting others, he advised against kissing one another on the cheek but said a "quick hug" presented less of a risk than a conversation between two people standing a metre apart and talking into one another's faces
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"Typically a hug where you are both peering over each other's shoulders, a quick hug like that is going to be a lot less risky than standing a metre apart and talking to each other.
"If you're going to hug just don't do it into each other's faces.
"If you don't really need to hug then don't but if you don't get into each other's faces while doing it and that's a reasonable straight around hug in my view and that's what I will do in my son and grandchildren's situation."
Ahead of restrictions easing on May 17, scientists have raised concerns about the spread of a coronavirus variant which was first discovered in India and has been classified as a variant of concern by Public Health England.
Prof Hunter said while the variant was a concern if it continued to spread in the numbers it appeared to be, at this stage, not enough was known about it or vaccines' effectiveness against it.