Brazil hospital promotes safe hugs amid pandemic

Niteroi, Brazil, Nov 25 (efe-epa).- At a time of reduced physical contact due to the pandemic, a hospital outside the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro with no Covid-19 patients has launched a “hug hour” initiative to safely allow patients and family members to show their mutual affection.

On scheduled turns, patients, visiting family members and even employees at Placi hospital in this Rio suburb can share a cathartic embrace and leave aside some of the loneliness brought about by their mandatory, coronavirus-triggered isolation.

No Covid-19 patients are being treated at Placi, an extensive care center that receives patients from other hospitals who are undergoing prolonged rehabilitation processes after suffering strokes, lung disease, neuromuscular ailments and other health problems.

Even so, coronavirus protocols are in place, and strict social distancing is required in all contacts between patients and their family and friends to avoid infection.

To help patients cope with their isolation and assist them with their recovery, the hospital drew upon the experiences of other countries during the first wave of the pandemic and began promoting the “hug hour” initiative.

“An embrace releases a series of well-being related substances that have an impact on self-esteem and the sense of pleasure and acceptance, (and) that closeness and exchange of affection leads to the patient’s having a greater desire to recover,” Carlos Alberto Chiesa, the hospital’s chief executive officer, told Efe.

But in keeping with Covid-19 protocols a special plastic sheeting is used as a barrier, albeit one with holes for the arms so people can hold their loved one comfortably. The sheeting is then sanitized after every embrace.

Among those taking part in a recent “hug hour” was retiree Walter Candido, who stood up from his wheelchair and shared a long kiss with his wife of nearly 50 years, Marleni.

The 75-year-old, who is recovering from a stroke, had seen his wife from a distance a week earlier but had not felt her touch for nearly a month.

While patients are the focus, the goal of the initiative is for the emotional benefits also to extend to the entire family, psychologist Joane Jardin, one of its creators, told Efe.

The project is being carried out at a time when Brazil is being hit by a fresh surge in coronavirus cases and deaths attributed to Covid-19, whose first wave has not yet passed.

Rio de Janeiro state ranks second in Brazil in terms of Covid-19 deaths (more than 22,000) and fourth in confirmed coronavirus cases (around 340,000).

Brazil has been one of the countries most affected by the pandemic, having thus far reported 170,000 deaths (second only to the United States) and 6.1 million cases (behind only the US and India). EFE-EPA


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