‘Hug it out’: foreign press love Belgian ‘cuddle contacts’
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‘Hug it out’: foreign press love Belgian ‘cuddle contacts’

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Several international news outlets have been captivated by Belgium’s “cuddle contact” rule, which allows people to be physically close to one person outside their households during the lockdown.

Not long after the announcement that Belgium went back into lockdown, and the fact that Belgians were allowed to pick one “cuddle contact” to be physically close to during the period of isolation, the international press picked up on the term and tried to explain the Belgian concept across the world.

When announcing the new Belgian lockdown on 30 October, the British newspaper The Telegraph already noted that Belgians could choose a ‘cuddle contact’.

“The ‘knuffelcontact’,” the newspaper said, using Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke’s Dutch word for it, “was introduced to safeguard the mental health of people living alone during lockdown. People living alone are allowed two “hug-buddies” under the new rules.”

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The popular daily The Sun led with “Hug it out” the next day. “Belgians were told to pick two ‘cuddle contacts’ as the country plunged back into national lockdown – who would yours be?”

The newspaper, however, talks about two ‘cuddle contacts’, but Belgians are only allowed to have one. People living alone are allowed to invite one extra person, under the new rules.

One of Italy’s most-read newspapers, Corriere della Sera, also wrote about Belgium’s striking measure, explaining “what it is (and who is allowed to have more than one)”.


In Ukraine, Liga.net also picked up the term, saying that “this cute-sounding phenomenon is intended to tackle the serious psychological problems of the country’s already tired population.”

The “cuddle contact” measure even made it to China, where the China Global Television Network (CGTN) reported on what they considered to be a remarkable measure.

The broadcaster even makes an animated video to explain how choosing a “cuddle contact” in Belgium works, and what the advantages are.

The American-Canadian media company VICE told its readers and followers on Instagram that “Everyone gets a ‘cuddle buddy’ in Belgium’s new lockdown.”

 

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With some of the highest cumulative cases per 100,000 in Europe and a record number of hospital admissions, Belgium returned to a national lockdown late Sunday evening. ⁠ ⁠ “Our country is in a state of emergency,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told reporters on Friday. “In many hospitals capacity has already been exceeded. We still do not see a change [in the numbers]. There is only one answer, one choice, and that is standing behind our healthcare sector. The only way to do that is to avoid all physical contact as much as possible.” ⁠ ⁠ But even De Croo’s plea to avoid physical contact has some exceptions. Under the new national measures, people in need of some physical intimacy are entitled to one “knuffelcontact” (literally “cuddle contact”), with people living alone allowed one extra cuddle buddy. Unfortunately for polyamorous “knuffelaars” however, only one cuddle contact is allowed to visit at a time. In May, health authorities in the neighboring Netherlands similarly–but more matter-of-factly–advised citizens to safetly arrange a “seksbuddy” (‘fuck buddy’) during its partial lockdown. ⁠ ⁠ Link in bio.

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The article also explains the purpose of such a so-called ‘cuddle contact’, saying that “despite being one of the cuter sounding words in the Dutch language, the idea of ‘cuddle contacts’ is meant to address serious mental health concerns.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times