Can I hug my grandchildren as lockdown is eased, Yorkshire woman asks Minister

Older and vulnerable people may continue to have to be shielded even after lockdown measures are eased for the rest of society, according to the Government's  Chief Medical Officer.

Chris Whitty issued the warning in response to a woman named only as 'Lynne' from Skipton in North Yorkshire, who was the first member of the public to have a question read out at the daily Number 10 coronavirus press conference.

The question from Lynne, read out by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, was: "I'm missing my grandchildren so much. Please can you let me know if, after the five criteria are met, is being able to hug our closest family one of the first steps out of lockdown?"

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Matt Hancock answered the question from Lynne in Skipton. Pic: PA

The Minister said the question was "incredibly important" and "brings home the emotional impact of the lockdown measures". Some 15,000 questions were submitted after the Government announced it was to take questions from the public.

In response to the question, Professor Whitty said it would depend on whether she has a "significant medical problem in a way that means she has to be shielding and she's an older person".

"If she's in a group that's vulnerable, then the answer is it might well be prudent - and this will depend entirely on individual circumstances - for her not to get into a situation where she's putting herself at risk," he continued.

"The overall view that actually one of the things that is clearly important to everybody is the ability to get together with families remotely but also physically everyone fully accepts.

"Nevertheless it is important that people who are vulnerable continue to be protected even after whatever the next steps are."

Mr Hancock added: "We understand the impact of not being able to hug your closest family. It affects all of us too. It is one of the most natural things in the world to want to hug a member of your family. We just hope we can get back to that as soon as possible and the best way we can get there the fastest is if we follow the rules."

After the responses, Mr Hancock thanked Lynne for the question. He said: "That has shown that questions from members of the public can be just as informative and just as difficult to answer as those from journalists who are trained to ask them."