How world leaders are divided over if to shake hands over coronavirus

The great handshake debate: How world leaders are divided over whether to touch their subjects

  • Leading world figures still shaking hands across the globe despite health advice
  • Charles, William and Kate all shook hands during public appearances yesterday
  • The Queen shook hands wearing gloves during ceremony at Buckingham Palace
  • Comes as #StopShakingHands has become hashtag trend on Twitter worldwide 

World leaders are continuing to shake hands across the globe despite health officials suggesting the gesture should be banned to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Senior members of the British royal family such as Prince Charles, Prince William and his wife Kate all carried out public appearances yesterday where they used the traditional greeting as they were introduced to hundreds of people.

The Queen herself took part in a investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace as normal on Tuesday, but was seen donning gloves for the first time in a decade.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared he would continue to shake hands despite the outbreak, boasting that he had already done so at a hospital where coronavirus patients were being treated.

Leading figures from across the world are also continuing to shake hands, including US president Donald Trump and Queen Letizia of Spain.

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Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, shake hands with Ireland’s President Michael Higgins and his wife Sabina in Dublin yesterday

The Queen herself took part in a investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace as normal on Wednesday, but was seen donning gloves for the first time in a decade

The Prince of Wales shook hands with several people while presenting awards and diplomas at the Royal College of Music in London last night 

U.S. President Donald Trump and President of the Republic of Colombia Ivan Duque Marquez shake hands in the Oval Office on Monday

Despite the lack of concern from politicians, the hashtag #StopShakingHands has been widely used on Twitter.

In Germany, even Chancellor Angela Merkel was shunned by her interior minister Horst Seehofer who refused to shake her hand at an event on Monday. 

Merkel had previously refused to shake the hands of attendees at an event in her own district due to the outbreak.

One British doctor also claimed she has stopped shaking hands with new acquaintances and a Google executive revealed how he has spent hours avoiding the greeting in order to stop the virus spreading.

Motivational speaker and presentation coach Richard McCann hosted an event in Leeds on Saturday and later posted a video that showed him greeting a man with an air handshake in a move he said was because of the ‘unfolding coronavirus situation’.

Posting to his social media accounts, Mr McCann revealed the video and questioned whether or not he was being paranoid for not shaking the hands of those attending his £300 per-ticket event. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared he would continue to shake hands despite the outbreak, boasting that he had already done so at a hospital where coronavirus patients were being treated 

Chancellor Angela Merkel offers her hand to Minister of Interior, Building and Community Horst Seehofer, who jokingly refuses to shake it 

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia are pictured in Spain on Tuesday (left), while the Duchess of Cambridge was also seen shaking hands in Dublin yesterday (right)

Claiming he had ‘improvised’ his greeting he said: ‘Not sure if I’m being paranoid but due to the unfolding Coronavirus situation I decided not to shake hands with the delegates here at one of my training events’. 

Speaking to MailOnline, Mr McCann said he wasn’t suggesting that people stop shaking hands with one another and added that he was trying to teach his clients how to be forward at events by offering their hand first.

He said putting your hand out first was a sign of confidence and added that he mentioned the coronavirus at his session last week as it was in the news, saying that someone extending their hand out to your first was a good way to make a good first impression. 

Public Health England says there are two main routes that can spread the infection with the first being from people who are within two metres of each other inhaling the infection into their lungs.

Its guidance adds: ‘It is also possible that someone may become infected by touching a surface, object or the hand of an infected person that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes (such as touching door knob or shaking hands then touching own face).’ 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge shake hands with an air hostess after arriving in Dublin on Tuesday

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea boss Frank Lampard shakes hands and share a hug after the final whistle of last night’s FA Cup game

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands before a meeting, in Ankara, Turkey yesterday

President of European Council Charles Michel and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis shake hands in the village of Kastanies, near the Greek-Turkish border, yesterday

Dr Hannah Fry (pictured right) said that she had stopped shaking hands with people to stop the spread. Mr McCann also refused to shake hands at an event over the weekend

On Thursday one business in London also revealed that they had stopped employees from shaking hands with each other in a bid to curb the spread and contraction of the disease after several office buildings were closed. 

It comes as other professionals warned that the disease can spread easily and that ultimately, people would eventually stop shaking hands due to the spread.

Speaking on Radio 4, Dr Hannah Fry, who previously worked on an experiment to see how far and fast a virus could spread, claimed she has also stopped shaking hands.

Dr Fry had worked on documentary ‘Contagion: The BBC Four Pandemic’, that charted how the UK would be able to plan and cope for the next flu pandemic. 

Asked about human behaviour and whether or not she was ‘still going around shaking hands’ with new acquaintances she said: ‘Goodness no. I think for me this was one of the biggest things of the TV programme, the simulations that we ran showed what might happen in the UK if there was no intervention what so ever and what might happen in the UK if just something as simple as people washing their hands between 5/10 times a day, the difference is remarkable.

‘I think the messages of coming out catch it bin it kill it make sure you wash your hands and avoid shaking hands with people can really make a genuine difference.’

One executive at Google also revealed that he had stopped shaking hands with people.

In a series of tweets from February 28 to March 1, Jaime Casap from Google detailed why he wouldn’t be shaking hands at an event

Jaime Casap said on Thursday that he was nervous about catching the virus and said he wanted to help others by not shaking hands.

Posting to Twitter he said: ‘Wanted to let everyone know I will not be shaking hands. Not nervous about catching the #coronavirus (I’m immortal,) I don’t want to pass it to the vulnerable. I hope we can all commit to nodding to each other and #StopShakingHands Pass it on! #COVID19US #CoronaVirusUpdate.’

Confirming he had managed to get through an event without shaking hands he later posted: ‘Friday night I went to speak at an event with 250 people. I got through the whole thing, with meeting hosts, talking to a bunch of people after my talk, all without ever shaking hands. It can be awkward but it’s doable! I still saw too many people shaking hands! #StopShakingHands.’ 

Many on social media praised both Mr McCann and Mr Casap for not shaking hands with others.

#StopShakingHands ‘is not an overreaction to coronavirus fears’, says health professional

As officer workers are encouraged to stop shaking hands, one expert has claimed that limiting human contact is the key to preventing the disease.

Speaking to MailOnline Wesley Baker, CEO of ANCON Medical said even though there has not yet been an official handshake ban, limiting contact could be for the best.

‘Whilst there has not yet been an official ban or warning from the government or NHS to stop handshakes, we would recommend that human contact, particularly in public areas, is kept to an absolute minimum. 

‘It is clear that the transfer of coronavirus moves at extraordinary pace, the particles are extraordinarily large and surrounded by a fatty outer layer which means person to person transmission is tangible and occurs speedily through physical contact and respiratory droplets.

‘Albeit a valuable element of business and social etiquette, in the more than unique medical climate that we are experiencing currently, we believe it is by no means an overreaction to limit human contact such as a handshake as much as possible.’ 

Over the last few days many social media users have been sharing the #StopShakingHands message, as cases of the coronavirus in the UK hit 36 over the weekend.

So far worldwide there have been over 89,000 cases of the virus and over 3,000 deaths.

On Friday German Chancellor Angela Merkel also weighed in on the handshake issue when she attended a business event in Stralsund.

She had given a speech to 400 local business leaders and constituents in her electoral district but claimed she would not be using the common gesture.

‘Germany is among the countries with the best possible conditions to deal with this virus.

‘Not every event needs to be cancelled. And on top of that, every single one of us can make a contribution.

‘I’m not going to shake anyone’s hand tonight.’

Horst Seehofer rebuffed the chancellor’s outstretched hand at a summit in Berlin on Monday – refusing to make an exception to a self-imposed handshake ban. 

Merkel took the snub in good spirits, withdrawing her hand and laughing with the Bavarian minister who has frequently been a thorn in her side.

‘That is the right thing to do,’ she said as she took her seat while guests at the meeting also burst out laughing.  

Seehofer had told German media that he had stopped shaking people’s hands, adding that he hoped a vaccine would be found within months.  

Asked whether Germany would go so far as to close off access to cities or regions, he said ‘such a scenario would be a last resort’.

‘I estimate that a vaccine will be available by the end of year,’ he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.   

Other workers on platforms such as LinkedIn have also been posting about the virus and what businesses can do to prevent, with many claiming that not shaking hands is a ‘sensible measure’. 

Gerard Barnes, CEO of mental health treatment specialists Smart TMS said that the speculation around the virus could be impacted people’s mental health. 

‘The potential of increased stress brought about by the news of coronavirus could leave you feeling more inclined to lean on negative and harmful habits such as excessive drinking, smoking or drug use. 

‘We strongly recommend focusing on positive behaviours such as maintaining good exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep, to ensure your physical and mental health is in the best possible shape.’

Avoid door knobs, stop shaking hands and use a pen to catch a lift: The physical steps you can take to stop yourself from catching coronavirus 

The coronavirus has now spread to almost 70 countries around the world and health officials are scrambling to stop people spreading the virus among themselves.

But with many patients not realising they’re ill, and others carrying on with normal life until they are diagnosed, the fast-spreading infection is proving difficult to contain.

Avoiding an infection with the virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, may be as simple as sticking to usual good hygiene, according to scientists.

Here, MailOnline reveals some of the physical steps you can take to avoid catching the coronavirus… and they include not touching doorknobs, wearing gloves and avoiding handshakes, like Germany’s interior minister who refused to shake Angela Merkel’s hand.

Wash your hands properly with soap and hot water

The World Health Organisation’s hand-washing method has six distinct steps (two to seven) which involve washing different parts of the hands to get rid of as much bacteria as possible

The World Health Organisation’s advice is for people to wash their hands at least five times a day with soap and water or hand sanitiser. Friction, experts say, is the key to scrubbing off any signs of infection.  

Proper hand-washing involves rubbing the palms together, rubbing the backs of the hands, interlocking fingers both backwards and forwards, scrubbing the thumbs and washing the fingertips. 

People should clean their hands after coughing or sneezing; when looking after ill people; before, during and after preparing food or eating; after going to the toilet; after handling animals and whenever they look dirty.

‘Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses,’ the WHO said in its official advice. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted the public should remember to wash their hands frequently, while singing Happy Birthday twice – to ensure every part is cleaned.

Avoid hugs and handshakes

Rejected: German interior minister Horst Seehofer turns away Angela Merkel’s offer of a handshake after revealing he had stopped shaking hands over virus fears 

The French government has urged people to avoid ‘la bise’ – the traditional greeting of kissing someone on either cheek – and not to shake hands to reduce the spread of the virus.

Health minister Olivier Veran said: ‘The reduction in social contacts of a physical nature is advised. That includes the practice of the bise,’ Bloomberg reported. 

It comes as Germany’s interior minister refused to shake Angela Merkel’s hand amid a growing coronavirus outbreak in the country. 

Resort to ‘air handshakes’

Richard McCann is seen above miming a handshake with an attendee at his event in Leeds before walking off stage 

The handshake is becoming a taboo greeting among workers, as employees and clients fear the spread of coronavirus in the workplace.  

A motivational speaker and presentation coach has now devised the ‘air handshake’ because of the ‘unfolding coronavirus situation’.

Richard McCann hosted an event in Leeds on Saturday and later posted a video that showed him greeting a man with an air handshake.

Posting to his social media accounts, Mr McCann questioned whether was being paranoid for not shaking the hands of those attending his £300 per-ticket event.  

Regular and thorough hand-washing is thought to be the best protection against the virus

Don’t touch doorknobs and handrails

Experts say the most common way the coronavirus is thought to spread is by people touching surfaces which have been contaminated by an infected patient.

This works by somebody who has got the disease coughing or sneezing onto their hand, then touching a surface while they have the viruses on their hands.

Günter Kampf of the University of Greifswald in Germany said disinfectants can kill the viruses but many things we touch every day on transport or in public buildings are not frequently disinfected. 

The virus can live on hard surfaces which are touched by a lot of people for hours at a time, scientists say, with one study suggesting it could last for up to nine days.

For this reason, things like door knobs, should be considered a danger zone, as well as handrails on buses or trains. 

A lift is a particularly high risk place because everybody is trapped breathing the same air and having to press the same buttons

Use a pen to push buttons instead of your fingers 

Professor Kampf said that a lift was a particularly high risk place because everybody is trapped breathing the same air and having to press the same buttons. 

One tip he saw on social media suggested pushing lift buttons, which can also harbour viruses, with a pen rather than a finger.

Be careful what you touch in public toilets

Professor Kampf said: ‘The lifts and the public toilets, these are the places where I would be very, very careful about touching any surfaces to not risk a coronavirus infection.’

Stop touching your face 

According to Alistair Miles, an Oxford University researcher, everyone should stop touching their faces

According to Alistair Miles, an Oxford University researcher, everyone should stop touching their faces.

He said in a tweet: ‘Stop touching your face. Especially stop touching your eyes, nose or mouth. This is much much harder than it sounds, and takes practice.

‘But if you start practising now, you will quickly get a lot better at it.’ 

The viruses survive on surfaces and are picked up by the next person who touches it, who then touches their face and transfers the virus into their mouth, nose or eyes. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Avoid large gatherings

Keeping people apart is one of the main ways governments can attempt to stop the spread of the virus – what officials call ‘social distancing measures’.

In Italy, France and Switzerland, for example, public gatherings of large groups of people – such as football matches – have been cancelled or banned.

Science writer Laurie Garrett, who travelled around China during the SARS outbreak in 2002/03, said her top piece of advice is to wear gloves in public

Wear gloves in public and wash hand-held objects 

Science writer Laurie Garrett, who travelled around China during the SARS outbreak in 2002/03, said her top piece of advice is to wear gloves in public.

Keep them on when using public transport or spending time in public spaces, she wrote in Foreign Policy, and when opening or closing doors.

She said: ‘If it’s possible to open and close doors using your elbows or shoulders, do so. Wear gloves to turn a doorknob — or wash your hands after touching it. 

‘If anybody in your home takes sick, wash your doorknobs regularly. 

Ms Garrett also recommends not sharing towels and opening windows at home, where possible, to ventilate the house

‘Similarly, be cautious with stairway banisters, desktops, cell phones, toys, laptops — any objects that are hand-held.’ 

Don’t share towels and open windows in your house 

Ms Garrett also recommends not sharing towels and opening windows at home, where possible, to ventilate the house. 

This can also be done in cars, where people are in ‘close contact’, as defined by Public Health England – within two metres of someone for 15 minutes or more.

Catch coughs and sneezes and bin tissues straight away…

People should also cough or sneeze into a tissue, which they should bin immediately afterwards, and avoid spitting in public. 

If they don’t have a tissue at hand, sneezing or coughing into the crease of the elbow is better than doing it onto hands

… Or sneeze into your elbow 

If they don’t have a tissue at hand, sneezing or coughing into the crease of the elbow is better than doing it onto hands. 

Stand a metre away from anyone who coughs or sneezes  

‘When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus,’ the WHO says. 

‘If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.’

When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or simply talks, tiny droplets of moisture are expelled into the air, carrying the virus out of the body up to approximately seven feet (2.1m).

Professor Wang Lin Fa, an infectious disease expert at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, told Straits Times: ‘You have to be very unlucky to get it from the droplets in the air.

‘It means that the person coughed directly at your face, or very near you, or if an infected person coughed in the lift about 30 seconds before you went in.’

Face masks are no good at protecting people from catching COVID-19

Don’t trust face masks – they won’t stop you getting the virus 

Although people have been pictured wearing them all over the world since the outbreak began, face masks are probably not any good at protecting people from catching COVID-19.

University of Reading scientist Dr Simon Clarke said individual viruses are so small they could pass through the filters on most masks people would buy from shops. Researchers tend to agree with this.

But they may reduce the risk of an infected person passing it on… 

But scientists do also say anyone who is already infected could reduce their risk of passing the virus on by wearing a mask.

They may be able to block droplets carrying the virus from being coughed out into the air around them.  

The virus infects someone by taking hold in flesh inside their airways and lungs after it is breathed in. Because of this, mucous and saliva contain the viruses and are infectious. 


The signs of COVID-19, the infection caused by the coronavirus, are often mild and are very similar to a cold, flu or chest infection.

Typical symptoms of infection include a fever, a cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

These are common complaints at this time of year, so where someone has travelled or who they have come into contact with are important in determining whether they might have coronavirus.

The NHS considers people to be at risk if they have the symptoms above and have recently travelled to mainland China, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, or the north of Italy (north of Pisa and Florence).

People who have, in the past two weeks, been to the Hubei province of China, Iran, the South Korean cities of Daegu or Cheongdo in South Korea, or one of 11 quarantined towns in northern Italy are considered to be at risk even if they feel well.

The 11 towns in Italy are Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo, San Fiorano and Vo’ Euganeo.

Those who have come into contact with others who have visited those places and then feel ill may also be at risk. 

People who fit any of the categories above should stay at home and self-isolate, away from other people, and phone NHS 111 for more advice. If you think you have the coronavirus do not go to a doctor’s surgery or hospital.

The virus can spread through coughing, sneezing, or by being close to someone for prolonged periods of time. 

To protect themselves, people should cough and sneeze into a tissue and throw it away, wash their hands and avoid contact with sick people. 

 Source: NHS

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