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Dr. Henry pitches 'B.C. Hug Day' as province announces restart plan

Last Updated May 26, 2021 at 2:28 pm PDT


Dr. Bonnie Henry says she's pitched the premier on 'B.C. Hug Day' once restrictions allow us to stop socially distancing

A counsellor say the return to physical, social contact can be anxiety-inducing after more than a year of staying apart

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s top doctor is pitching a new holiday as the province embarks on its plan to return to pre-pandemic normal: Hug Day.

While the reopening plan laid out Tuesday emphasized how sectors of the economy will reopen and when larger in-person events and gatherings can go ahead, Dr. Bonnie Henry also said British Columbians may soon be able to scrap social distancing and greet friends and neighbours with a squeeze or embrace.

“I’m thinking, by the time we get to July, if things continue in the way that we expect, that we’ll be able to hug our neighbours again — if they’re people who like to be helped. I mean we have to understand that not everybody does,” she said.

“But it’s one of the things that I’m missing most in this pandemic, and I’ve been trying to pitch to the premier that we should have B.C. Hug Day in July when we get to that point where we’re where we can take our masks off and have those closer social interactions.”

As of Tuesday, indoor gatherings with up to five people or one other household are allowed again. Henry says hugs are allowed in these small groups, but each person and situation will be different.

“We’re saying, expand your circle in a small way right now. But you need to know whether they’re immunized; whether you’re immunized. We have to make those decisions ourselves in the next little while,” she explained, adding it’s important to be careful with people who are immunocompromised.

“If your grandparents have been immunized then they’re going to be part of your social connections again, you know each other you know what the risks are — now’s the time where you can get together, you can hug again.”

Mia Anthony, a registered clinical counsellor, says the easing of restrictions, including eliminating the need for physical distancing, may induce some anxiety. After a year of staying away from other people, a return to more contact can be jarring.

When you think about what anxiety is, it’s a signal that our body gives to us to say, ‘Hey look out there’s some type of threat or some type of danger that is around here.’ This is something that we’ve been working with and dealing with for a year and a half. So, to all of a sudden say, ‘No, this is no longer a threat, it’s, it’s kind of hard to play catch up,'” she explains.

“There’s a lot of change that happened in 2020 and it almost feels like we’re kind of just getting used to it now, and all of a sudden we’re changing the system once again.”

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For introverts, hug-haters, or those who have difficulty turning down invitations, the pandemic has provided an excuse to opt-out of some physical and social contact.

“Oftentimes it’s really hard to uphold boundaries, and COVID has given us an excuse to be able to say, ‘No,'” Anthony notes.

“Change is going to look different for everyone, and so knowing what it is that you need, and knowing what your boundaries are, is going to be really important in this, and everyone’s going to be different.”

And that’s definitely the case when it comes to hugs.

“For some people, this is the way they receive love or show love or affection. So to be able to do that again can feel very connected. For other people, it can be terrifying. It can be really scary to know that there is no longer this boundary, this external person or authority saying that we cannot have physical touch, we have to be socially distanced — for some that was a relief.”