Health and Wellness

The coronavirus is stopping the handshake … but the 'footshake' is taking its place

Tanzanian President John Magufuli (right) greets opposition politician Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad (left) by tapping their feet together in Zanzibar, Tanzania on March 03, 2020.
Tanzanian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Italy is set to release new rules in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which includes advice telling people to avoid shaking hands or hugging.

The country is one of the worst hit from the flu-like virus outside of China, with a death toll of 107. The government is planning to close movie theaters and ban public events across the country in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

Countries with more tactile greetings have also been forced to forego tradition for hygiene reasons. A Maori tribe in the New Zealand capital of Wellington has restricted its "hongi" greeting, where people press their noses together and touch foreheads, reported Radio New Zealand on Thursday. 

The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health & Prevention also advised its citizens, via an Instagram post, to avoid traditional nose-to-nose greetings. 

Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel's attempt to shake hands with her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, was rejected at a meeting on Monday, amid growing fears regarding the virus. 

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However, world leaders have already found a replacement for the handshake — the "footshake." 

Tanzania's President John Magufuli was pictured tapping feet with the leader of the opposition party Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad earlier this week. 

Meanwhile, Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of oil-producing group OPEC, was videoed doing the footshake with the Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak. 

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In China, bumping feet has been dubbed the "Wuhan shake," named after the city at the epicenter of the virus outbreak, with videos of the greeting going viral.  

Sylvie Briand, director of the pandemic and epidemic diseases department at the World Health Organization, advocated alternative greetings like the footshake by re-tweeting a cartoon which also included the Thai "wai" and bumping elbows. 

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Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has opted for the elbow bump, encouraging people in the U.S. state to "exercise good hygiene like washing your hands and other precautions," adding that "simple steps can make a big difference." 

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There are now more than 95,200 cases of the new coronavirus and over 3,280 deaths across more than 70 countries globally, according to latest figures from the WHO. 

In addition to issuing advice around hygiene, many countries have imposed travel restrictions, particularly on those coming from or planning to go to countries that have been more affected by the virus.