Social distance between people in most settings lowers COVID-19 transmission risk. This is why social distancing (staying six feet away from anyone you don't live with) is a legal requirement in the Cayman Islands in indoor public spaces as of September 2021.
Even when it is not a legal requirement, staying six feet or more away from people who you don't live with can help limit the spread of COVID-19.
We know that if you are in close contact (closer than six feet) with another person for more than 15 minutes, you are more likely to contract COVID-19 if the person you are physically close to has the virus.
But what about when you see your loved ones or friends and they want to show their affection with a hug?
Socially Distanced Greetings
If you see somebody coming towards you and you know that they normally enjoy a hug, or think they may have forgotten current regulations, there are a few things you can do to make your greeting socially distanced:
- Speak Beforehand: Before you see your friends and family, you can send them a quick message explaining your comfort zone. In this way, you avoid hurting feelings and your loved ones understand what you are trying to do. You can explain that you do not feel comfortable with physical contact and offer alternatives.
- Offer an elbow: Take a step back and offer an elbow. The elbow has fast become an alternative greeting adopted in recent months.
- Toe tap: Take a step back and offer to tap your feet.
What About Unexpected Hugs?
We understand that hugs happen -- sometimes people take you entirely off-guard.
The safest thing to do is to avoid them entirely. Remember that people with COVID-19 shed virus particles constantly. When you hug, you're getting very close to where those particles come from (their nose and mouth).
In the Cayman Islands, we have many cases of asymptomatic COVID-19 (people who do not show any symptoms but do have the virus), so you cannot know by looking at a person or before you hug a person whether or not they are sick.
If you are surprised with a hug from somebody, here's what you can do:
Face opposite directions
Don't hug face-to-face, by which we mean try to turn your face to the other side. Remember, COVID-19 particularly spreads from the nose and mouth so avoid breathing on each other.
Keeping hugs brief is important because the risk of transmission increases with more prolonged contact. If you're surprised by a hug, try to keep it short.
Kids Can Hug Your Waist
While hugging at knee or waist level lowers the risk for direct exposure to droplets and aerosols because faces are far apart there is potential for the child’s face and mask to contaminate the adult’s clothing. You might consider changing clothes and washing your hands after a visit that includes hugs to reduce the risk of transmission.
Wear A Mask
In most indoor public spaces it is a legal requirement to wear a mask. By wearing a mask while being hugged you can help reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
Take Preventative Measures Afterwards
If you're taken by surprise by a hug, all is not lost. There are several things you can do afterwards to help minimize the chance of transmission of COVID-19. These include:
- Politely and gently remind your loved one of your comfort zone. (for example, say 'I don't like to hug right now')
- Keep your hands away from your face at all times.
- Minimize the duration of the hug or exposure. The longer you are close to somebody else's face the higher the risk.
- Excuse yourself and wash your hands with soap as soon as possible. If water or soap is not immediately available, use a hand sanitiser.
- When you get home, wash your clothes and take a shower.
- If you feel unwell in the following days, take our online assessment tool or contact your GP to arrange a test.
If you have further questions relating to the rules or transmission of COVID-19 or testing, visit our FAQs.