With social distancing being the new norm in times of coronavirus, people all around the world are craving human touch. With some extremely tragic cases where people have passed away, alone in hospital beds with not a single loved one by their side. And although we may have become accustomed to keeping in touch with our loved ones over virtual calls, the lack of human contact is finally taking a toll on many.
However, a Belgian retirement home has come up with an interesting way to soothe the pain of social distancing measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic for their residents, by letting them embrace their loved ones through a ‘hug curtain’.
The staff at the Jardins de Picardie nursing home installed a large plastic curtain on June 14 and it has proven very popular with the residents, who had not been allowed any visitors for 11 weeks. Residents and visitors were equally enthusiastic.
Lili Hendrix, an 86-year old resident of the home, said to Reuters that the curtain was “the most beautiful invention” she had ever seen. “It’s terribly emotional for me,” she said, adding that she cried the first time she was able to hug her daughter again. “The feeling you get when you are close to someone like that, I felt like the heat was passing through.”
Belgium imposed its lockdown on March 18 to halt the spread of COVID-19 but has now started to relax the restrictions. The disease has so far claimed 9,761 lives in Belgium, a country of 11 million, one of the highest fatality rates per capita in the world.
35 year-old Amandine Josefiak, who had come to visit her father at the home told Reuters that being able to meet your loved ones is a real pleasure, emotionally and physically too..
The curtain, decorated with flowers and bright colours, is made of a big plastic sheet with two pockets on each side where residents and visitors or staff insert their arms.After each use, nurses carefully disinfect the plastic curtain.
“Due to the coronavirus and this social distancing we all suffered a lot from the lack of affection,” Marie Christine Desoer, the director of the home, said, adding, “We know it will last for a while, we don’t know where we’re going with this virus…”
However, this isn’t the first time that ‘hug curtains’, ‘hug tunnels’ or ‘cuddle curtains’ have been used. Previously, the Três Figueiras facility in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, a care home for elderly people also created a “hug tunnel” which allowed visitors to hug their loved ones without the risk of contracting the virus.
In May, a man from the UK created a similar cuddle curtain so that he could hug his grandmother but still protect her from the possibility of contracting the virus. The social media video of Antony Cauvin giving his grandmother a hug went viral.
“It’s a hug glove!” The world’s best invention made Carolyn’s wish come true: to hug her mom again. 🤗 pic.twitter.com/64cH6JLjPz
— Humankind (@Humankindvideos) May 14, 2020
Another video of a Canadian national gifting her mother a ‘Hug Glove’ for Mother’s Day also went viral. Carolyn Ellis made the ‘hug glove’ for her mother, Susan Watts with the help of her husband Andrew.
Another video from the UK shows an essential worker mom who reportedly created a similar ‘cuddle curtain’ so that she could hug her daughter who suffered from severe asthma and was staying with her grandmother during the lockdown. Thanks to the homemade contraption, 35 year-old Lara Green was able to hug her 13-year-old daughter, Katie for the first time in 9 weeks.
Ss visit their teacher, Kelsey Pavelka’s hug station for a sterile, social distancing-safe hug. I’m not crying. You are. 😢How are you supporting your Ss emotionally? pic.twitter.com/VS9Dl5g8bY
— Julia’s #STEAMing Ahead! (@GiftedTawk) May 16, 2020
An Indiana teacher also created a ‘hug station’ for her students to be able to get cuddles amid the pandemic. The idea has caught on and similar hug tunnels and cuddle curtains have been seen across the world, including Brazil and Spain.