European health chiefs today greeted each other with elbow bumps and by placing their hands on their heart today instead of the traditional handshake, as coronavirus fears continue to rise across the continent.
Ministers from Croatia, France, Greece and Cyprus took precautions by raising their elbows instead of shaking hands at an emergency meeting in Brussels to try and contain the escalating crisis.
Almost 6,000 cases and 160 deaths have been confirmed across Europe, with Slovenia, Hungary and Poland becoming the latest countries to detect their first cases of the deadly coronavirus.
In the UK, thousands of Freemasons have been told to avoid their so-called ‘special handshakes’ over fears that the mysterious practice could leave elderly members at risk of catching the deadly COVID-2019.
It comes after US Vice President Mike Pence yesterday bumped elbows with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and other top state officials, in a meeting to discuss the state’s efforts to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus.
European health chiefs greeted each other with elbow bumps at an emergency meeting being held in Brussels today. Pictured, Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros, right, bumps elbows to say hello to French Health Minister Olivier Veran
Vice President Mike Pence (center) greets Washington State Governor Jay Inslee (left) with an elbow bump after arriving on Air Force Two in Tacoma on Thursday
US Vice President Mike Pence gestures with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee during a press conference yesterday as health officials avoid traditional handshakes
European Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides, center, and European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic, right, put their hands over their hearts in a gesture of hello to German Health Minister Jens Spahn during an extraordinary meeting of EU health ministers
Greek Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias, left, bumps elbows to say hello to Cypriot Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou as they laugh
The coronavirus has now infected more than 100,000 people around the world and killed more than 3,400 – it has reached most corners of the globe except East Africa
Globally, confirmed cases have topped 100,000 today. More than 3,400 deaths have occurred, mostly in people with underlying health conditions
Fearing a possible shortage in protective equipment, health ministers from the European Union are holding an emergency meeting to try to improve their collective response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
While Italy is the hardest-hit country in Europe, 5,923 confirmed cases have been recorded across the 27-nation bloc.
Globally, confirmed cases have topped 100,000 today. More than 3,400 deaths have occurred, mostly in people with underlying health conditions.
The epidemic has been spreading at a quicker pace over the past two weeks, leading the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to raise the risk of coronavirus infection from moderate to high.
The last time EU health ministers met, on Feb 13, no death had been reported in Europe.
According to the latest figures released by the ECDC, 112 people have now died from the virus on the continent.
‘Today is about solidarity, preparedness, and about coordination,’ said Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for health.
As health officials gathered at EU headquarters today, they took advice to minimise close contact with each other and elbow bump instead of hand shake.
The handshake is becoming a taboo worldwide for greeting among workers, as employees and clients fear the spread of coronavirus in the workplace.
France and Italy recommended last week that people do not shake hands or kiss each other, while Switzerland has said its residents should consider dropping the everyday greeting of kissing each other on the cheek.
Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence gave elbows with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on the tarmac after Air Force Two landed in Tacoma.
Instead of shaking his hand, Inslee put out his elbow. The vice president then reciprocated and gave Inslee an elbow bump.
The vice president gave elbow bumps to other top state officials in Washington after arriving to discuss efforts to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus in the US.
Boris Johnson however, appears to be unfazed by the risk of catching coronavirus with handshakes, admitting on Tuesday: ‘I can tell you, I’m shaking hands continuously.
‘I was at a hospital the other night, where I think there were actually a few coronavirus patients, and I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.’
In other developments, the United Grand Lodge of England, an organisation for Freemasonry, wrote to members to advise against handshakes, The Telegraph reports.
Fearing a possible shortage in protective equipment, health ministers from the European Union are holding an emergency meeting to try to improve their collective response
As mass panic grips the UK, anxious Brits have taken to stockpiling hand sanitiser
A sign on the empty shelves in Asda in Chandler’s Ford, Southampton
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said today the government is ‘confident’ the UK will not run out of food supplies after Britons rush to supermarkets for staples. Pictured, empty shelves in Southampton
Many European countries agree that the European Commission should speed up the joint procurement process it launched two weeks ago that allows the EU to buy urgent medical supplies for its members. Pictured, production of hydroalcoholic gel in France
The body deem the ban a necessity because many Freemasons were in their seventies and eighties and therefore at greater risk of catching COVID-19 and death.
WHAT ARE EUROPEAN COUNTRIES DOING TO TRY AND STOP CORONAVIRUS SPREADING?
Italy, which is battling its own crisis with more than 3,000 people infected and 107 dead, has urged residents to avoid kissing and has closed all its schools for a fortnight.
The government has put 11 towns into total lockdown and is also considering closing cinemas and theatres and banning large public events, The Guardian reported.
People over the age of 75 have been told to stay at home to avoid getting ill.
In France, a country with around 285 infections, people have been advised to stop using the traditional cheek kiss greeting, la bise, and officials are urging citizens to wash their hands regularly.
The government has commandeered the entire country’s supply of face masks so it can make sure there are enough for medical workers and coronavirus patients.
Supermarket shelves are reportedly being stripped bare in Germany, where the government advises that households always keep at least 10 days’ worth of supplies in case of a disaster.
The outbreak in Germany has worsened in recent days and there are now at least 349 people confirmed to have the infection – more than any county in the Far East except China or South Korea.
And in Spain, where there have been 222 cases, officials have advised that crowds be banned from some international sports matches and that large events be cancelled.
Ceremonies typically have a lot of close skin-to-skin contact during secret initiation ceremonies using medieval practises.
Dr David Staples, the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, said: ‘We take a lot of the allegory in our ceremonies from medieval stonemasons.
‘They can be sort of like a West End play. People are led around the lodge by their shoulders, or by their hands.
‘We do have handshakes, although they never leave the ceremony itself. For the moment, those elements of our ceremonies are on hold.’
The meeting in Brussels comes amid fears that the outbreak could lead to drug shortages because India limited the export of certain medicines due to the coronavirus and drug ingredient makers in China remain shut.
Europe largely relies on China and India for common drugs and protective equipment such as face masks.
Many European countries agree that the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, should speed up the joint procurement process it launched two weeks ago that allows the EU to buy urgent medical supplies for its members.
As contagion fears have led to shortages of face masks and sanitising hand gels, French President Emmanuel Macron said this week the government is requisitioning all current and future stocks of protective masks.
‘We don’t have enough protective masks,’ said Czech health minister Adam Vojtech as he joined the meeting.
‘The problem is that the demand is much higher than the supply. A third of the world’s production of drugs is located in China and also in India, which as far as I know also has stopped exports of drugs recently.’
Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros said the meeting should also help member states to better coordinate measures taken at national level that differ from one country to the other.
Italy, for instance, has closed all schools and universities and barred fans from all sporting events for the next few weeks.
In neighbouring France, the Paris-Nice bike race will go ahead as planned this weekend, while soccer games continue to be played in Belgium.
‘We should emphasize the importance of communication between member states and toward the public,’ Mr Beros said. ‘That can help us fight the disease.’
Asked about the bloc’s dependence on medical chains in China and India, Danish health minister Magnus Heunicke said the EU should consider building a new strategy in the long term.
But ‘right now, we are focusing on making sure we have the medicine we need.’
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) have said there are currently no medicine shortages in the UK and the ‘we have stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues.’
A further 47 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in the UK today – 36 in England and 11 in Scotland – bringing the total to 163 from just 51 on Wednesday
But as mass panic grips the nation, anxious Brits have taken to stockpiling hand sanitiser and food supplies.
The UK has already recorded 163 cases and officials are bracing themselves for a surge in cases.
The first death of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, was confirmed on UK soil last night – believed to be a woman in her 70s from Berkshire with underlying health conditions. Last month a Briton died from the virus after being infected on a cruise ship in Japan.
In other coronavirus developments:
- Scientists have predicted up to 15million people could die and the global economy may take a $2.3TRILLION hit from the coronavirus;
- World Health Organization and Chinese scientists published statistics showing men are 65 per cent more likely than women to die from coronavirus;
- The Vatican reported its first case of the coronavirus, days after Pope Francis tested negative for the deadly infection which has infected 98,000 people worldwide.
- The Tokyo Olympics could be held in empty stadiums because of coronavirus fears in one scenario reportedly being discussed by health officials.
- Retailers in the UK started to disinfect customers entering their stores as fears around the coronavirus continue to escalate;
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced demands to say how the government plans to stop coronavirus panic buying – as members of the public told him it is a real problem;
- Britons who feel ill after returning home from any part of Italy now told to self-isolate for two weeks to stop the spread of coronavirus, in a dramatic ramping up of Government advice;
- More than 100 Britons are stranded on board a cruise ship off the coast of California where medics are testing passengers for coronavirus;
- More than 1,200 Canary Wharf workers were evacuated amid coronavirus fears and hedge fund staff banned from using the Tube;
- A Coronation Street star placed themselves in self-isolation for two weeks after returning from a holiday abroad due to fears over coronavirus.
An LBC radio producer photographed a passenger on the London Underground ‘protecting’ themselves from coronavirus by hiding underneath a quilt
A commuter on the London Underground wears a gas mask on Friday morning as the capital was gripped by coronavirus fears after the UK’s first death
A passenger wears a face mask while riding the London Underground yesterday as infections rapidly approached triple digits in the UK
Figures from the World Health Organization and Chinese scientists has revealed that 1.7 per cent of woman who catch the virus will die compared to 2.8 per cent of men (pictured, a graphic showing those most likely at risk from the virus)
Avoid door knobs, stop shaking hands and use a pen to catch a lift: Steps to take to avoid coronavirus
The coronavirus has now spread to almost 70 countries around the world and health officials are scrambling to stop people spreading the virus among themselves.
But with many patients not realizing they’re ill, and others carrying on with normal life until they are diagnosed, the fast-spreading infection is proving difficult to contain.
Avoiding an infection with the virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, may be as simple as sticking to usual good hygiene, according to scientists.
Wash your hands properly with soap and hot water
The World Health Organisation’s hand-washing method has six distinct steps (two to seven) which involve washing different parts of the hands to get rid of as much bacteria as possible
The World Health Organisation’s advice is for people to wash their hands at least five times a day with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
Friction, experts say, is the key to scrubbing off any signs of infection.
Proper hand-washing involves rubbing the palms together, rubbing the backs of the hands, interlocking fingers both backwards and forwards, scrubbing the thumbs and washing the fingertips.
People should clean their hands after coughing or sneezing; when looking after ill people; before, during and after preparing food or eating; after going to the toilet; after handling animals and whenever they look dirty.
‘Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses,’ the WHO said in its official advice.
Avoid hugs and handshakes
The French government has urged people to avoid ‘la bise’ – the traditional greeting of kissing someone on either cheek – and not to shake hands to reduce the spread of the virus.
Health minister Olivier Veran said: ‘The reduction in social contacts of a physical nature is advised. That includes the practice of the bise,’ Bloomberg reported.
Resort to ‘air handshakes’
The handshake is becoming a taboo greeting among workers, as employees and clients fear the spread of coronavirus in the workplace.
A motivational speaker and presentation coach has now devised the ‘air handshake’ because of the ‘unfolding coronavirus situation’.
Richard McCann hosted an event in Leeds on Saturday and later posted a video that showed him greeting a man with an air handshake.
Posting to his social media accounts, Mr McCann questioned whether was being paranoid for not shaking the hands of those attending his £300 per-ticket event.
Richard McCann is seen above miming a handshake with an attendee at his event in Leeds before walking off stage
Don’t touch doorknobs and handrails
Experts say the most common way the coronavirus is thought to spread is by people touching surfaces which have been contaminated by an infected patient.
This works by somebody who has got the disease coughing or sneezing onto their hand, then touching a surface while they have the viruses on their hands.
Regular and thorough hand-washing is thought to be the best protection against the virus
Günter Kampf of the University of Greifswald in Germany said disinfectants can kill the viruses but many things we touch every day on transport or in public buildings are not frequently disinfected.
The virus can live on hard surfaces which are touched by a lot of people for hours at a time, scientists say, with one study suggesting it could last for up to nine days.
For this reason, things like door knobs, should be considered a danger zone, as well as handrails on buses or trains.
Use a pen to push buttons instead of your fingers
Professor Kampf said that a lift was a particularly high risk place because everybody is trapped breathing the same air and having to press the same buttons.
A lift is a particularly high risk place because everybody is trapped breathing the same air and having to press the same buttons
One tip he saw on social media suggested pushing lift buttons, which can also harbour viruses, with a pen rather than a finger.
Be careful what you touch in public toilets
Professor Kampf said: ‘The lifts and the public toilets, these are the places where I would be very, very careful about touching any surfaces to not risk a coronavirus infection.’
Stop touching your face
According to Alistair Miles, an Oxford University researcher, everyone should stop touching their faces.
He said in a tweet: ‘Stop touching your face. Especially stop touching your eyes, nose or mouth. This is much much harder than it sounds, and takes practice.
According to Alistair Miles, an Oxford University researcher, everyone should stop touching their faces
‘But if you start practicing now, you will quickly get a lot better at it.’
The viruses survive on surfaces and are picked up by the next person who touches it, who then touches their face and transfers the virus into their mouth, nose or eyes.
From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Avoid large gatherings
Keeping people apart is one of the main ways governments can attempt to stop the spread of the virus – what officials call ‘social distancing measures’.
In Italy, France and Switzerland, for example, public gatherings of large groups of people – such as football matches – have been cancelled or banned.
Wear gloves in public and wash hand-held objects
Science writer Laurie Garrett, who travelled around China during the SARS outbreak in 2002/03, said her top piece of advice is to wear gloves in public.
Keep them on when using public transport or spending time in public spaces, she wrote in Foreign Policy, and when opening or closing doors.
Science writer Laurie Garrett, who travelled around China during the SARS outbreak in 2002/03, said her top piece of advice is to wear gloves in public
She said: ‘If it’s possible to open and close doors using your elbows or shoulders, do so. Wear gloves to turn a doorknob — or wash your hands after touching it.
‘If anybody in your home takes sick, wash your doorknobs regularly.
‘Similarly, be cautious with stairway banisters, desktops, cell phones, toys, laptops — any objects that are hand-held.’
Don’t share towels and open windows in your house
Ms Garrett also recommends not sharing towels and opening windows at home, where possible, to ventilate the house.
This can also be done in cars, where people are in ‘close contact’, as defined by Public Health England – within six feet of someone for 15 minutes or more.
Catch coughs and sneezes and bin tissues straight away…
People should also cough or sneeze into a tissue, which they should bin immediately afterwards, and avoid spitting in public.
Ms Garrett also recommends not sharing towels and opening windows at home, where possible, to ventilate the house
… Or sneeze into your elbow
If they don’t have a tissue at hand, sneezing or coughing into the crease of the elbow is better than doing it onto hands.
Stand a few feet away from anyone who coughs or sneezes
‘When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus,’ the WHO says.
‘If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.’
If they don’t have a tissue at hand, sneezing or coughing into the crease of the elbow is better than doing it onto hands
When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or simply talks, tiny droplets of moisture are expelled into the air, carrying the virus out of the body up to approximately seven feet.
Professor Wang Lin Fa, an infectious disease expert at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, told Straits Times: ‘You have to be very unlucky to get it from the droplets in the air.
‘It means that the person coughed directly at your face, or very near you, or if an infected person coughed in the lift about 30 seconds before you went in.’
Don’t trust face masks – they won’t stop you getting the virus
Although people have been pictured wearing them all over the world since the outbreak began, face masks are probably not any good at protecting people from catching COVID-19.
Face masks are no good at protecting people from catching COVID-19
University of Reading scientist Dr Simon Clarke said individual viruses are so small they could pass through the filters on most masks people would buy from shops. Researchers tend to agree with this.
But they may reduce the risk of an infected person passing it on…
But scientists do also say anyone who is already infected could reduce their risk of passing the virus on by wearing a mask.
They may be able to block droplets carrying the virus from being coughed out into the air around them.
The virus infects someone by taking hold in flesh inside their airways and lungs after it is breathed in. Because of this, mucous and saliva contain the viruses and are infectious.