Handshake to Namaste: How coronavirus is changing etiquette
New Delhi, Mar 13: With the latest number of COVID-19 cases in the world stands at 1,25,293, with over 4,600 deaths, the coronavirus is reshaping social and workplace norms, and keeping one's distance is now the polite thing to do.
Now that the deadly coronavirus is a certifiable pandemic, Keeping your social distance, avoiding crowded places - and above all, don't shake hands, refuse every peck on the cheek and definitely avoid hugging.
In the weeks since the coronavirus' outbreak, hand-wash has become a global obsession, and now everyone's preaching hand hygiene.
Handshakes are often seen as a vital part of a job interview and a way to respectfully greet clients, colleagues and customers. However, dodging a handshake or a hug can be awkward, but experts say there are poised ways to avoid physical greetings in these troubled times.
The history of the handshake is believed to date back to the 5th century BC in Greece. It was seen as a symbol of peace, demonstrating that neither person was carrying a weapon.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI),''Handshakes have the potential to transmit infectious organisms directly between individuals." A 2014 study suggests that a single handshake transfers 124 million live bacteria on average.
So what replaces the handshake?
If someone reaches out to shake your hand, either socially or in business, one can politely decline it by doing Namaste, elbow bump, a prayer gesture, foot shake and Japanese way of greeting -- the bowing of head.
Proponents believe that the namaste greeting will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus due to current worldwide health concerns.
However, world leaders have already found a replacement for the handshake:
Tanzania's President John Magufuli was pictured tapping feet with the leader of the opposition party Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad earlier this week.
Mohammed Barkindo, secretary-general of oil-producing group OPEC, was videoed doing the foot shake with the Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.
Recently, US President Donald Trump and visiting Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had greeted each other in the traditional Indian way of 'namaste' at the White House on Thursday, which they said was necessary in the current times of coronavirus.
Trump and Varadkar, who is of Indian-origin, joined their palms in the 'namaste' pose when reporters asked them in the Oval Office as to how they greeted each other.
"We did not shake hands today. We looked at each other and said what we are going to do. You know, sort of a weird feeling," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House along with Varadkar.
When another reporter asked if they shook hands, Varadkar joined his hands in the 'namaste' pose, showing the reporters how he greeted the president. Trump too joined in with the 'namaste' pose. "I just got back from India. And I did not shake any hands there. And it's very easy, because they go like this," Trump said as he showed reporters the 'namaste' pose for the second time in quick succession.
Trump also showed the Japanese way of greeting -- the bowing of head. "They (India and Japan) were ahead of the curve," he remarked, even as he said bowing and 'namaste' gave him a strange feeling.
"I have never been a big hand-shaker, you probably heard. But once you become a politician, shaking hands is very normal. It's a very strange feeling when people walk up and say 'hi'," he said.
"It almost feels impersonal or feels like you're being rude, but we just can't afford to think like that for the next few weeks," Varadkar told reporters.
It should be noted that the World Health Organisation on Thursday said coronavirus 'is a controllable pandemic'.