Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been spotted slapping a colleague on the back in the House of Commons, despite social distancing measures in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Hancock’s moment of apparent forgetfulness happened as he arrived to Prime Minister’s Questions.
He and other ministers have repeatedly urged the importance of people keeping two metres away from one another.
Mr Hancock said he was “so sorry for a human mistake on my part”.
“Like all of us, I instinctively wanted to reach out to a friend I’d just seen – in this case, for the first time in many weeks. I realised my mistake and corrected myself,” the health secretary said.
He said it shows how hard social distancing can be, but added it is “so important that we all keep trying to do our bit”.
In a clip which quickly garnered thousands of views after it was posted on Twitter, the health secretary can be seen putting his arm across a colleague’s shoulder as he enters the Commons.
A third MP then comes and stands beside both of them, before the man in the middle steps back.
Mr Hancock then steps across to fill the gap to speak to the third MP, before moving back again.
Mr Hancock announced he had tested positive for coronavirus in March – shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed his own positive test.
While Mr Johnson had to spend several days in intensive care, Mr Hancock had mild symptoms.
Scientists have said it is likely that people who have already had the virus will have some immunity to it, but that everyone must still stick to social distancing rules.
The World Health Organization said in May that there was “currently no evidence” that people who have recovered from the virus are protected from a second infection.
Speaking in the Commons after the slip-up, Mr Hancock defended why the government has not yet reduced social distancing from two metres to one metre – something many businesses have said will be crucial to their recovery as they reopen.
“It’s the sort of thing of course we want to lift and we need to do that in a way that is careful and safe,” Mr Hancock said.
“The scientists are reviewing it, along with the economists, and we will take forward the further measures on this when it’s possible and safe to do so.”
A review into the two-metre rule will be completed “in the coming weeks”, No 10 said on Monday.
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines suggest a one-metre distance sufficiently reduces the spread of the virus.
But the government’s scientific advisers say that being one metre away from others carries up to 10 times the risk of being two metres apart.