No Hugs Allowed: Cuddling After Lockdown May Cause Mutations, Says Virology Expert

VENTURA, CA - 2 APRIL, 2020: Mary-Lou McCullagh, 83, and her husband Bob, 84, greet Axel Stirton, 2, the little boy who lives across the street. Mary-Lou and Bob are in isolation from the Covid-19 pandemic, trying to ensure that they do not come in contact with the virus. Mary-Lou …
Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A leading British molecular virology expert has urged people to refrain from hugging their loved ones, even as lockdowns restrictions are eased in Britain, as contact may enable the virus to mutate and build up resistance to vaccines.

Professor Jonathan Ball of Nottingham University warned that as many Brits have only had one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, they could be liable to transmit the disease if they hug their family members after a long winter lockdown.

Speaking to LBC News, the virology expert said: “They may be tempted to hug the grandchildren or hug the family members but it’s incredibly important that they don’t do that. I don’t want to be a doom merchant but the more risks we take the more chance we have of the virus coming back and biting us.

“There’s still a lot of virus out there and what we don’t want to happen is for somebody to become infected who’s partially immune because what can happen is that can encourage the evolutionary emergence of virus variants that are possibly resistant to the vaccine.

“Anecdotally we’ve all witnessed it – various surveys suggest some people who’ve had a single dose of vaccine may feel they have been protected and they’re having visitors and they’re meeting up with their family.”

Professor Ball went on to warn that human contact could lead to mutations of the Chinese coronavirus which could become immune to vaccines, saying that if people aren’t fully inoculated against the virus “they could become infected and that could lead to the generation of viruses that are less susceptible to those vaccines that we’re going to rely on so much in the future.”

Starting on Monday, the national lockdown restrictions have been reduced in England, reverting back to the ‘rule of six’ which permits the gathering of six people outdoors.

So far, some 30 million people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, representing more than half of the adult population in the country. However, some 37 million people, many of whom are younger people or children, have not been jabbed yet.

Dr Julian Tang, Honorary Associate Professor/Clinical Virologist at the University of Leicester said: “With another (roughly) 5 million who have natural immunity from natural infection, there is still a large number of the under 50s still susceptible to the virus — more than enough to sustain a new outbreak, as we are still seeing 5000-6000 new Covid-19 cases a day.”

Dr Tang added that “If we can wait a bit longer until we vaccinate more of the younger people to suppress the amount of circulating virus more completely, hugging will become safer later on this year.”

A former chief scientific adviser to the Government, Professor Sir Mark Walport, backed the call to refrain from hugging until coronavirus cases drop dramatically, saying: “I think that when the evidence shows that the case number is really, really low indeed, that’s the point, so some degree of caution makes sense.

At present, there are around 5,000 new cases recorded per day, a steep decline since the winter, when tens of thousands were being recorded daily.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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