BEIRUT: Amidst the sea of fear-provoking uncertainties regarding the COVID-19 epidemic, commonly known as the coronavirus, citizens around the world have twisted some of their social behaviors to avoid being infected.
In addition to school and university closures, cinemas, nightclubs, gyms, and theaters have all been closed down until further notice, by the Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon.
As experts around the world clamber to encompass the novel coronavirus, which has affected more than 90,000 people and spread to more than 70 countries and territories around the globe, people have been facing a dilemma: How should I greet someone?
Experts assured that small changes in social behavior can go a long way in preventing the wide spreading of the virus.
Dr. Sylvie Briand, the World Health Organization's director of pandemics, has endorsed a variety of greetings as a substitute to the handshake, including bumping elbows, waving and bowing with palms together in the Thai "wai."
A video for Lebanese superstar Ragheb Alama got re-posted thousands of times as he was seen foot shaking with his friend instead of handshaking, and many other people around Lebanon picked it up too.
“Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth (with your arm) when coughing or sneezing, avoid close contact with those who are already infected and you have drastically decreased your chances of getting infected,” noted Dr. Sami Ayyash, specialized in infectious diseases.
Citizens around the world are now abiding by the World Health Organization’s recommendation in avoiding the most common form of greeting: The handshake.
Walking down the streets of Hamra, one visibly notices the change in social behavior.
The Lebanese; very expressive by nature, have resorted to elbow shakes and foot shakes instead of the usual pecks on the cheek, hugs, handshakes, and high-fives.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” said Dania Hoballah who was spotted elbows shaking her friend in Hamra.
Hoballah told Annahar that at the beginning of the widespread of the virus people would look at her oddly or get offended when she’d refuse to shake their hand, but as the virus spread more and more “more people picked the new modified form of greeting."
Healthcare providers, experts, teachers, and mothers all are warning against the possible dangers of the common handshake.
Ramia Mamoudh, mother of 2 girls, told Annahar that she strictly warns her daughters aged 8 and 10 before leaving the house, against shaking any one’s hand or kissing any well-meaning relatives and friends.
“It’s my responsibility first and foremost to protect my family,” she said.
Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer good-naturedly refused to shake Chancellor Angela Merkel's hand on Monday. Merkel simply laughed before taking a seat.
As world leaders are picking up on the change in social behavior, leaders of Gulf states urged their citizens to ditch their regular nose to nose greeting and replace it with a wave, or simple pat on the back.
There are now over 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.
Furthermore, many countries have imposed travel restrictions, specifically on those coming from or planning to visit countries that have been more affected by the virus.
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