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What is cautious hugging?

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To hug or not to hug?

The Prime Minister has recently said that when we see our nearest and dearest again we may want to employ 'cautious hugging', but what is that? Dr Elizabeth Webb investigates.



The next step of relaxing coronavirus restrictions in England will go ahead on Monday. Among other things, we will be allowed to meet in groups of 6 — or 2 households — inside, and in groups of up to 30 outside. The Prime Minister has also mentioned 'cautious hugging', but what does that mean?

Until Monday 17 May, the coronavirus restrictions say we should stay 2 metres away from people we don’t share a household with, or 1 metre plus with extra precautions where this isn’t possible. From Monday, the Government has said that we can make the personal choice whether to socially distance when we meet up with friends and family.

While we should still socially distance from people who aren't in the group we're socialising with when out and about, Monday's changes mean that, for the first time in more than a year, hugs and other close contact with people from outside our households and support bubbles will be allowed.

Although the situation with coronavirus in the UK is improving, with 2/3 of adults having had at least one vaccination and the numbers of people with coronavirus low, the risk has not disappeared. Because of this it’s useful to think about the following questions when thinking about hugs...

1. Where are you hugging?

Outside hugs, or hugs in well-ventilated rooms, are safer than indoor hugs.

2. How are you hugging?

Short hugs, where you’re not face-to-face with the person you’re hugging are safer. That way, you can avoid breathing in each other’s breath. If you want to be extra cautious, you and the person you’re hugging could wear masks.

3. Who are you hugging?

If you’re hugging someone who is particularly vulnerable to coronavirus – because of their age or other characteristics – you may want to be extra cautious, especially if you haven’t both had both vaccine doses. If you or the person you want to hug have got any symptoms of coronavirus, or have been in contact with someone else who has, hugs are off the table and you should follow the rules about self-isolation.

4. Do you both want to hug?

We’ve missed out on a lot of hugs over the past year or so, and some of us will be keener to get back to hugging than others. If you feel nervous, uncomfortable or unsafe you shouldn’t feel like you have to embrace people yet. And if you’re happy with hugging it’s important to be sure the person you want to hug is happy too.

And remember...

Hugs can be low risk, but risks are higher if we spend a long time indoors and close together. It's still a good idea to think about ventilation or meeting outdoors where possible.

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Last updated: Feb 22 2023

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