Tory minister announces return of ‘friendly, intimate contact’ and the jokes write themselves

Michael Gove looks confused in a suit and tie standing outside Downing Street

You’re about to hear the words “friendly, intimate contact” on Grindr a lot after the UK government said it’s hoping to restore just that.

Tory minister Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (9 May) that as part of England’s roadmap out of lockdown, government-sanctioned human contact is about to become a reality.

“As we move into stage three [on 17 May] of our roadmap, it will be the case that we will see people capable of meeting indoors,” said Gove, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

“And without prejudice to a broader review of social distancing, it is also the case that friendly contact – intimate contact – between friends and family is something we want to see restored.”

Ahead of prime minister Boris Johnson’s formal announcement of the relaxation Monday afternoon (10 May), Gove clarified that “contact” means hugging.

But his clunky choice of words sparked as much confusion as it did thirst from queer folk who have spent months filling the void of human touch with cats and Netflix.

The NHS’ vaccine rollout, coupled with lockdown measures, has considerably tempered the coronavirus pandemic, allowing for the long-awaited loosening of restrictions.

However, experts have urged caution. SAGE scientists have stressed that hugs – which is what Gove meant by “contact” – should be selective, short and not face-to-face.

“Perhaps turn your face away slightly,” professor Catherine Noakes told the BBC, “and even wearing a mask could help.”

The loosening of restrictions will allow people to visit other households for the first time in months – presumably putting hook-ups back on the agenda, though the government has yet to confirm what the rules on sex will be.

Throughout the pandemic the rules on sex have shifted numerous times, leading to confusion. In September, health secretary Matt Hancock sparked dashed hopes by saying that Brits not in an “established relationship” were not permitted to hook up.

It was a strange choice of words, considering that the department’s own advice at the time said those in the “early stages of a relationship” should take extra precautions when it comes to social distancing.

Overall, public health agencies have struggled to agree on guidelines when it comes to having sex amid the pandemic.

Some health officials have suggested those without a regular, live-in partner throw on their face masks and hit the local glory hole or well-ventilated outside space to have safe sex to minimise face-to-face contact.