One of the hardest parts of the coronavirus pandemic for many people has been that social-distancing measures have prevented them from visiting or comforting elderly relatives.
But, enterprising individuals, and institutions, have been coming up with the next best thing to a "real" hug: The "cuddle curtain" — essentially, a big plastic sheet with improvised armholes that allow individuals to embrace without direct contact.
Needless to say, the inventions (often made out of shower curtains) have provided several tear-jerker moments on social media, with videos of family reunions and cuddles through curtains between old and young — and indeed any loved-ones separated by the coronavirus pandemic — going viral.
A retirement home in Belgium told Reuters on Thursday that its "hug curtain" has been a hit with elderly residents, allowing them to see and, more importantly, embrace, their visiting relatives for the first time in months after lockdowns prevented both visits and physical contact.
Staff and residents at the Jardins de Picardie nursing home, which is near Belgium's border with France, say the large plastic curtain that staff installed on June 14 is proving very popular.
One elderly resident was reported to have told the news agency that the curtain was "the most beautiful invention" she had ever seen, and that she cried the first time she was able to hug her daughter again.
Apparently, it's not the first time that a "cuddle curtain" has been used, with a U.K.-based man also having devised a similar plastic screen in May to allow him to hug his grandmother while protecting her from possible infection.
A heart-warming video on social media of Antony Cauvin, from Stratford-upon-Avon in the U.K., giving his grandmother a hug has been viewed millions of times.
Elsewhere in the U.K., a key worker mom reportedly created a "cuddle curtain" so she could safely hug her young daughter, who had severe asthma and had been sent to self-isolate with her grandmother during lockdown, for the first time in nine weeks.
The idea has obviously caught on, with similar plastic screens in Brazil and Spain.
Lateral thinking when it comes to staying in touch with loved ones during lockdowns around the world has seen people adopt online technology, with video calls surging, in order to stay in touch.
But the lack of physical contact has proved tough and tragic for many. In the worst cases, social distancing and safety measures have meant that relatives were often unable to be with their loved ones when they passed away in hospital from Covid-19.