Ten days after CCTV footage appeared to show him kissing and embracing a married colleague, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the nation to be “careful” when hugging others and to only do it outside.
Mr Hancock said on May 16 he planned to hug his parents when the curb on physical contact ended the next day, but said he would do it outdoors in order to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
The Health Secretary has been accused of breaching guidance on social distancing that was in place until May 17, which said people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble.
In 2020, in the early months of the pandemic, Mr Hancock also said Professor Neil Ferguson had been right to resign after breaking lockdown and social distancing rules to see his married lover.
On May 16 this year, 10 days after CCTV captured him indoors with his aide Gina Coladangelo, Mr Hancock told Sky News that people should be careful if hugging despite their “yearning” for physical contact.
He said: “We should all be careful, we all know the risks… Of course there are people who have been yearning to have some physical contact.
“You should do that carefully. If you’ve had both jabs more than two weeks ago, that’s much safer.”
By the time of the apparent embrace with Ms Coladangelo, Mr Hancock had only had one dose of vaccine, received on April 29.
The married father also told Sky News on May 16 he planned to hug his dad the following day, “but we’ll probably do it outside and keep the ventilation going: Hands, face and space”.
Mr Hancock added: “We all have a personal responsibility, we all know now the sorts of things that are riskier… I think personal responsibility is an important mantra here because people have been so responsible through the crisis and they’ve really listened and followed the guidance and instructions that the Prime Minister set out, and that’s the approach we should take together.”
On April 28, around a week before the CCTV footage – which the Sun says is from May 6 – of Mr Hancock apparently kissing his aide was taken, he was asked why the UK was not following the US in enabling vaccinated people to get together without social distancing.
He said a decision had been made to move as a population towards greater freedoms on physical contact, which would not come until later.
Mr Hancock said: “The decision we’ve taken… is to move together, that’s what the road map does… we took the decision when we wrote the road map that we all move as one, and I think that is very widely supported.”
Professor Ferguson resigned from his Government position in May 2020 for breaking rules after his relationship with a married woman came to light.
Mr Hancock said he had been left speechless after learning of Prof Ferguson’s “extraordinary” breach of the rules and that police should consider whether to take further action.
He said Prof Ferguson “took the right decision to resign” as a Government adviser after conceding he made an “error of judgment” by allowing a woman to visit him at home.
Asked about police involvement, he told Sky News: “They will take their decisions independently from ministers, that’s quite right, it’s always been like that…
“So I give them their space to make that decision, but I think he took the right decision to resign.”