Fear of virus leads to change in greetings

OKEECHOBEE — At the start of the flu season, some churchgoers in Okeechobee heard a familiar message. They were advised, due to the concerns about spreading germs, to avoid shaking hands during the “Sign of Peace” that is part of the regular Sunday service, and instead simply nod or wave and share the familiar, “Peace be with you.”

As worldwide fears about the coronavirus grow, the traditional handshake greeting is quickly going out of style worldwide. On Monday, it made the television news when an interior minister declined to shake the hand of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The chancellor quickly understood and smiled and waved at him instead.

Also this week, the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health used social media to advise citizens to avoid their traditional nose-to-nose greeting.

In the wake of the decline of the handshake, the “foot shake” is gaining popularity worldwide, as evidenced on social media. The elbow touch, once popularized by germophobe Howie Mandel, has also been suggested.

At a news conference earlier this week, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested his countrymen use the Indian “Namaste” greeting with folded hands.

Fears about germs may also spread to other activities in which people traditionally touch hands. A Vietnamese dancer’s hand washing dance on Tik Tok had more than 200,000 views and started a social media challenge. Those featured in the dance — which mimics the motions of scrubbing hands — dance next to each other without touching.

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