Friday 6 March 2020 4:22 pm

Elbow bumps and the Wuhan shake: How coronavirus killed the handshake

Coronavirus fears have prompted a variety of novel greetings as people around the world avoid shaking hands, chief among them the so-called Wuhan shake. 

In Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, a new way of saying hello has gone viral.

Nicknamed the Wuhan shake, the allegedly coronavirus-proof greeting involves participants bumping each other’s feet instead of hugging, kissing or hand-shaking. 

A video of the Wuhan shake emerged on Twitter last week with the caption: “I love how people can adapt and keep a sense of humour about stressful situations.”

It has since taken off worldwide: Mohammed Barkindo, secretary-general of oil cartel Opec, was caught shaking feet with Russian energy minister Alexander Novak in Vienna on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, US politicians have invented their own hands-free method of greeting. US vice president Mike Pence bumped elbows with Washington state governor Jay Inslee on Thursday as he met with state officials over the outbreak. 

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank Group president David Malpass were also spotted bumping elbows at a press briefing on Covid-19 in Washington, D.C. this week.  

And in Switzerland, where it is common to greet others with alternating kisses, health minister Alain Berset advised against “la bise” (the kiss).

In remarks published in the SonntagsZeitung newspaper on Sunday, Berset said: “We know that keeping one’s distance socially is the best way to slow the spread of the virus.

“That is why renouncing greeting kisses is a measure that should be seriously taken into consideration.” 

Dr Sylvie Briand, director of the pandemic and epidemic diseases department at the World Health Organisation, endorsed alternative greetings on Twitter this week. 

Sharing a cartoon strip of alternative handshakes – including the “wave” and the so-called Thai mai, Dr Briand said: “We need to adapt to this new disease.” 

As well as avoiding contact with others who may have coronavirus, the NHS has suggested a series of measures to prevent the spread of the virus. 

These include washing hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, covering your mouth when you cough, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.