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Coronavirus etiquette: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a brilliant hack for avoiding handshakes

Posted by
Jessica Rapana
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Coronavirus is rapidly changing social etiquette as health officials warn against shaking hands. The New York congresswoman has suggested an alternative. 

When German chancellor Angela Merkel extended her hand to interior minister Horst Seehofer at a meeting on Monday, he refused. While usually – pre-coronavirus – this would be considered rude, Merkel herself admitted: “That was the right thing to do.”

The virus’s continued spread across the world is affecting social niceties. Or as The Guardian puts it, “handshakes, cheek-kisses, hugs – the everyday greetings ingrained in our culture – are not as welcome as they used to be.” 

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Sylvie Brand, director of pandemic disease at the World Health Organisation, has encouraged people to instead use handshake alternatives, including waves, elbow bumps and the Thai “wai”. 

Governments are also encouraging citizens to engage differently: in Italy, one of the worst-hit countries, the special commissioner for coronavirus is encouraging people to be “a bit less expansive”, suggesting that Italians’ demonstrative nature could be contributing to the virus’s spread.

France’s health minister Olivier Véran has told people to cut back on hugs and the famous air kisses, “la bise”, while in Australia, New South Wales health minister Brad Hazzard has suggested pats on the back instead of shaking hands. NBA stars in America have been told they should fist bump fans rather than high-five and to avoid taking items such as pens, balls and jerseys from fans to autograph. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has put forward her own handshake-alternative. The congresswoman tweeted: “One practice I’ve used in no-hand shake situations is to put my hand over my heart and smile/nod at whomever I am greeting. Shout out to our local NY14 communities for teaching me this.”

Research shows we carry 3,200 bacteria from 150 different species on our hands and, on average, we will shake hands 15,000 times in our lifetime. What’s more, a handshake transfers twice the amount of bacteria compared to a fist-pump or a high-five.

Safe to say, we will be using Ocasio-Cortez’s hack from now on…

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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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