Downing Street has struggled to explain how Boris Johnson’s habit of bumping elbows with members of the public fits in with physical distancing guidelines, saying only that it is “the PM’s way of greeting people”.
A mask-wearing Johnson was photographed this week leaning forward to touch elbows with a series of staff members during a visit to the London ambulance service HQ.
Last week, touring a factory following his mini budget update, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was pictured doing the same thing.
Government guidelines –introduced when the 2-metre compulsory physical distancing rule was reduced last month – say this should still be the aim, but where it is not possible, people not from the same household or social bubble can stand 1 metre from each other, but with risk mitigation, such as wearing a mask.
Asked how elbow-touching fitted in with the guidelines, a Downing Street source said: “That’s the PM’s way of greeting people while keeping some distance from them.”
Pressed on how Johnson kept distance from people when he was touching them, the source said: “As I say, that’s the PM’s way of greeting people while maintaining some distance from them.”
Asked about whether this meant elbow-bumping was seen as an acceptable greeting for all people, the source did not confirm this.
They added: “That’s the way that the PM is greeting people when he’s out and about. It’s a way of greeting while maintaining some distance from them.”
Another No 10 source explained that the guidelines on distancing notes “the benefits of being side on rather than making contact with people face-to-face”, which happens with an elbow touch.