PEOPLE have been warned they still aren't allowed to hug loved ones as lockdown rules ease today – and are being urged to "call out" friends and family breaking the rules.
Sports minister Nigel Huddlestone called on everyone to resist dropping their guard on social distancing measures now that restrictions are being loosened across England.
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And a top scientist warned embraces may be off the cards until cases of Coronavirus have been brought down to very low levels across the country.
The warnings come as the country takes its first major step out of the three-month lockdown today, with a heavy focus on allowing outdoor activities again for the first time this year.
As of today up to six people, or two different households, can meet up outside including in private gardens, and the Government's "stay at home" message is formally dropped.
People in England are now allowed to travel across the country to see friends and family, but they must only meet up in the open air and overnight stays are still banned.
Outdoor sports and leisure facilities like swimming pools, golf courses, and football pitches are also reopening as of today with Covid-secure measures in place.
But as restrictions are eased Mr Huddlestone warned people should be cautious and avoid close physical contact like hugging even when outside.
He said: "The message is very clearly, people do understand despite the temptation please don't risk the health of your loved one by actually hugging and risk the spread of the disease.
"Of course when you're hugging somebody you're in incredibly close proximity to them.
"We've been through this most people do know the rules, we know what to do we know how to behave, and also if you see somebody behaving in a slightly odd way then maybe call them out on it in a respectful way, because sometimes some people just forget."
Asked how people should call out others, he added: "Well, if you see a loved one say 'look, let's just make a little bit more careful here – sorry, would love to give you a hug, but not at the moment'.
"I think people are sensible about this, actually you do see people a little bit with caution, you see people all the time getting close to each other then suddenly thinking 'well you know what I can't do that, let's just keep the distance'.
"I know it's a little bit awkward, but actually in these circumstances, it's the right thing to do."
Top scientist Sir Mark Walport, who is a member of the Sage advisory group, also urged people to stick to social distancing rules to help further get the virus under control.
He told Times Radio: "Social distancing outside still does matter, at the end of the day, the virus gets from one person to another by proximity and proximity can happen outside as well, hence your discussion about hugging.
"I think that when the evidence shows that the case numbers are really really low indeed, that's the point, and so some degree of caution makes sense."
Mr Huddlestone warned the PM may not be able to press ahead with his plan to end restrictions on June 21 if the public takes liberties with today's easing of curbs on outdoor gatherings.
He said today was "a really big day for millions of people across the UK just dying to get back to the things they love" but urged everyone to show caution and stick to the rules.
The minister insisted the police will continue to hand out fines to large groups flouting the rules in public places, but admitted it will be harder to monitor gatherings in private gardens.
And he said No 10 will "trust in the common sense of the British public to a very great degree" to stick with the rules, warning if they don't the pathway to freedom is at risk.
He said: "First of all, the police do enforce the laws. If there are large gatherings the police can and will intervene. They can fine people on the spot if necessary.
"I think most people understand and respect the rules and actually the common sense of British public is prevalent and I think will prevail.
"We are relying on people to use their common sense. Take advantage of the measures in place today, but don’t abuse them."
He added: "It's really important that people think about themselves and their loved ones and the health and safety of their loved ones when they conduct any activity.
"The message is very, very clearly outdoor is much safer than indoor, please don't put yourself or your family at risk. We've experienced Coronavirus now for over a year, most people know the law.
"So we really do need people to stick by the law, because otherwise the roadmap is at risk. But we don't want it to be at risk, as long everybody abides by the rules."
He added: "It is a roadmap. Those key milestones will be looked at very carefully indeed and if we don't feel like we can proceed, then we won't."
The next planned step in the PM's roadmap to freedom is April 12, when pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve outdoors and hairdressers will be able to reopen.
Then on May 17 hospitality settings will be allowed to welcome back indoors customers and overnight stays between two separate households will be allowed, respecting the rule of six.
Finally on June 21 it is planned for all restrictions to be lifted on mixing and venues that have had to stay shut throughout lockdown, like nightclubs, are also set to reopen.
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