The BBC has exposed itself to a wave of internet scorn after lecturing Britons on how to correctly embrace one another, in response to reports that the government would soon “allow” hugging.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to push forward with plans to ease lockdown restrictions, including guidance on hugging. The government is “hopeful” that hugs will soon be permitted, but people should act “cautiously” when engaging in amicable touching, Health Minister Nadine Dorries said. Her remarks were echoed by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who said Downing Street wanted to fully restore “friendly contact” between people.
The government’s somewhat presumptuous belief that it could “allow” Britons to hug each other seemed to delight the BBC, which scrambled to assemble experts to weigh in on how to responsibly go about putting your arms around someone.
The public broadcaster turned to Catherine Noakes, a specialist in airborne infections at the University of Leeds, who explained that her countrymen still have to be “a bit careful” and that perhaps you should think twice before going in for a hug.
“It would worry me if we were advocating we could hug all of our friends every time we meet them,” Noakes remarked, explaining that a bonanza of hugs would be very bad because such behavior could “perpetuate an awful lot of additional close contact” which potentially spread coronavirus.
She laid out some easy-to-remember ground rules for Britons daring enough to risk a hug. First, restrict hugging to “close family”. Second, “don’t hug too frequently. Keep it short.” Perhaps most importantly, “avoid being face-to-face, turn your face away slightly,” she instructed.
The BBC also aired a segment, complete with helpful graphics, that relayed Noakes’ expert pointers.
— Paul Nuki (@PaulNuki) May 9, 2021
“The BBC is literally giving hugging lessons,” commented Paul Nuki, senior editor of the Telegraph’s Global Health Security section.
The hugging tips caught the eye of many others.
“The BBC just reached a new low in its promotion of ‘nanny state’ culture,” read one disdainful reply.
Others expressed exasperation at the thought that people had actually stopped hugging their loved ones on the government’s orders.
Any person who is sitting around waiting for the govt to let them hug people are complete morons. Conditioned to within an inch of their lives. Absolutely pathetic
— Dan-Dan (@gotdeleted82) May 9, 2021
Silkie Carlo, the director of the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said that hugging had never been against the law and that it was shameful that the media continued to pretend as if the government had the authority to tell people who they could touch, and when.
— Silkie Carlo (@silkiecarlo) May 10, 2021
This isn’t the first time that the BBC has issued intimacy-related tips during the Covid-19 pandemic. The outlet published a piece in January urging Britons to abstain from sex or risk spreading coronavirus.
“Masturbation, sex toys or having phone or online sex are recommended as the safest options,” the BBC claimed, citing experts.