People are being urged to remain patient before the next relaxation of Covid lockdown restrictions as there is still a possibility for coronavirus cases to “reignite”, amid reports that family and friends in England could be allowed to hug in just over a fortnight.

The success of the vaccine rollout and sharp reduction in coronavirus cases and deaths has led ministers to support the move, according to the Times. If approved, this would mark the first time that people in England have been allowed to have physical contact outside of their household or bubble for more than a year.

The government had said it would keep hugging under review as England approaches the third stage of the roadmap out of lockdown on 17 May. It has not yet made a formal announcement on the decision.

However, the former chief scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport warned that “the virus has not gone away” because many UK adults have still not had their first vaccine jab.

“We are on the cusp of being able to move to the next step of relaxation; it’s absolutely right that vaccines have been spectacularly successful but not everybody is protected,” Walport, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We’ve got 35% of adults who are not vaccinated and 60% who have only had one dose and the truth is the virus has not gone away.”

“The mistake that has been made repeatedly, really, is relaxing just slightly too early. What we need to do is get the numbers right down. It’s important that we don’t act as an incubator for variant cases that might be able to resist immunity.”

Walport said the UK was still recording about 4,600 new cases each day, adding: “There’s the potential for that spark to reignite, it seems increasingly unlikely, but we need to get the numbers down.”

According to figures released on Friday, more than half of adults in the UK have now had one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and more than 20% are fully vaccinated.

If the government sticks to its plan, people in England will be allowed to meet inside from 17 May, following the rule of six or two-household rule, and be allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30.

Hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants will reopen indoors, as will cinemas, play areas and accommodation such as hotels. Some larger sporting events and performances will be allowed to go ahead with up to 1,000 people indoors, or 4,000 people outdoors. The number of people allowed to attend weddings will increase to 30.

This content first appear on the guardian

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