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Matt Hancock claims he broke social distancing ‘guidance’ in embracing aide

·2-min read

Matt Hancock has apologised for breaking social distancing guidance when kissing his aide, even though the law at the time suggests such gatherings were not allowed.

The Health Secretary was pictured embracing his aide Gina Coladangelo on May 6 in what appears to be CCTV footage from inside the Department for Health and Social Care.

Legislation in place at the time stated that “no person may participate in a gathering” that “consists of two or more people… and takes place indoors.”

An exception to this rule was that the gathering was “reasonably necessary for work purposes or for the provision of voluntary or charitable services”.

It is unclear whether Mr Hancock believes his embrace was part of a work meeting.

Guidance in place until May 17 also said people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble.

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner said that it appeared there had been a breach of the regulations.

He told BBC News: “I am pretty clear, although you never know for sure, that there was a breach of the regulations, on the basis that at the time it was illegal to have any gathering of more than one person anywhere indoors unless an exception applied.

“The only one that could reasonably be said to apply or possibly said to apply would be that this was reasonably necessary for work purposes.

“But based on what we know and what we can see in the images, it doesn’t seem that that was reasonably necessary for work purposes.”

Specifically regarding workplaces, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had guidance in place at the time saying they must be kept Covid-secure.

It said social distancing “means keeping people apart to help reduce the spread of coronavirus”, adding: “Where possible, you should keep people 2m apart. If this is not possible, consider additional control measures.”

The additional measures that could be used if social distancing was not possible included deciding “if the activity can be stopped” and keeping “the activity time as short as possible”.

The workplace should also be organised “so that people are side-by-side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face”.

Efforts should also be made to “reduce the number of people in close proximity in the work area” and “consider if workers can stay in one place or at one workstation when working”.

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