In certain cultures, a kiss on the cheek is a time-honoured tradition for greeting one another. But with the spread of Covid-19, this is being put to an end, temporarily at least.
Both France and Italy have issued advisories telling people to refrain from kissing on the cheek for the time being.
Mr Olivier Veran, the French Health Minister, said at a recent press conference that it would be for the best to refrain from the “bise” (to greet one another with a peck on one or both cheeks).
“The reduction in social contacts of a physical nature is advised. That includes the practice of the bise. The virus is circulating in our territory and we must now slow down its spread,” he said.
France has reported 73 Covid-19 cases so far, with two deaths. Twelve of the confirmed cases have recovered, while 59 remain in hospital.
In addition to the kissing advisory, the French government announced a ban on gatherings in public involving more than 5,000 people.
On Sunday (March 1), the authorities cancelled the Paris Half-Marathon.
Mr Veran gave the assurance that the measures would only be temporary. “These measures are temporary and we will likely have to revise them. They are restrictive and paradoxically we hope they don’t last long because that means we will have contained the virus spread.”
In Italy, Mr Angelo Borrelli, the country’s special commissioner for coronavirus, asked the public to curb their demonstrative nature, at least for now.
Italy has reported more than 1,100 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 29 fatalities.
He said: “We have a collective social life that is very florid, very expansive. We have lots of contact, we shake hands, we kiss each other, we hug each other. Maybe it is better in this period not to shake hands, and do not have too much contact, and try to be a bit less expansive, which is different from how I am.”
And now, even Switzerland, where, like the French, people kiss each other on the cheek to say hello, has followed suit. The country’s Health Minister, Mr Alain Berset, said on Sunday (March 1) that the Swiss should consider renouncing the habit, at least for now.
Many Swiss women, or people of the opposite sex, actually greet each other with three kisses on the cheeks, not just two. Mr 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.”
The country may even officially advise people to stop shaking hands. In a discussion on new health guidelines for avoiding Covid-19 infection, the head of the communicable diseases unit at the Swiss Federal Department of Health, Mr Daniel Koch, said: “One will be to immediately stop shaking hands.”
Switzerland has reported fewer than 20 cases of Covid-19 and no deaths. People have already been banned from organising events of more than 1,000 participants until March 15. /TISG