People should give each other a hug rather than shake hands now that the coronavirus measures are relaxing further, according to Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst.
As people are allowed to see ten others per week from Monday, keeping the necessary 1.5 metres will not always be easy. Some will not be able to hold back from giving each other a hug, but that's okay, Van Ranst told Het Nieuwsblad.
Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, during the press conference in which she announced the start of Phase 3 of the country's exit plan on Wednesday, said that people should use their common sense, but that it was understandable that keeping your distance was not always possible.
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“As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to hold each other," Van Ranst said, adding that hugs are okay, and even safer than shaking each other's hand. More skin to skin contact increases the risk of transferring the virus, he said.
“A handshake remains difficult, hands come into contact with each other and with the environment, which increases the chance of the spread," Van Ranst added.
However, starting a meeting at work by giving everyone a hug instead of a handshake is not the intention either.
"Shaking everyone's hand at the conference table, you cannot do that anymore. But I do not recommend replacing that with a hug. Keep the hug for the people you have an affinity with," Van Ranst said. "By the way, I do not think many people have missed that obligatory handshake," he added.
The Brussels Times