COVID-19: How to ‘cautiously hug’ amid the pandemic?

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The United Kingdom will resume its “cautious” hugging next week as the COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions continue to ease.

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. But, several countries have now started to ease their lockdown measures and restrictions.

On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “Step 3” of his four-step plan to bring the country out of lockdown by summer will start on May 17. Apart from allowing up to six individuals to gather indoors, human contact in the form of hugging will also be permitted.

CNN noted, though, that this only applies to U.K. citizens. But, while the United States has yet to release a similar notice or guidance, they asked experts about the definition of “cautious hugging.”

What constitutes a “cautious hug”

The publication reached out to Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst, and Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases professor from Vanderbilt University. As noted, these two experts have followed the COVID-19 pandemic since its emergence last year.

They explained that a cautious hug is “without face-to-face contact,” and it does not last long. It should be “brief,” adding that it should be done outdoors.

Unvaccinated individuals should reportedly apply this more when hugging others. They should be more cautious, the experts said.

Hugging among people with COVID-19 vaccine shots

The case is a bit different, though, for vaccinated people. Wen and Schaffner claimed that individuals who have already completed their shots may hug one another “without restriction,” even indoors and without a mask.

They continued that fully vaccinated people may also “enjoy extended periods” of contact. These may include sitting together, sharing a snack, and even “being fond and affectionate” toward one another.

There is an exception, though, in this case. If vaccinated people want to embrace an “immunocompromised” individual or anyone who has not completed their vaccines, they should observe “cautious hugging.”

As for children who are not eligible for vaccine shots yet, they can reportedly share a hug with vaccinated loved ones around the waist. The important thing is they keep their face away from the face of the person that they are hugging.

It’s okay not to hug

The allowing of hugs following the easing of pandemic restrictions in some countries is not required, though. If one is not ready to give a hug or embrace, this is “OK,” according to the two experts.

Dr. Leana Wen, then, pointed out that hugging and embracing were “unthinkable” a few months ago. It is a “dramatic change,” considering the lifestyle that the millions of people have been living since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. So, if hugging remains an uncomfortable act to do, there is nothing wrong with staying more cautious even for vaccinated individuals.

Images (1) & (2) courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/YouTube

Mike Pantoja-Contreras

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Mike Pantoja-Contreras

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