The Surprising Greeting That's Safer Than a Handshake

Pressing palms just isn't as safe during the coronavirus pandemic, experts say.

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To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ways in which we interact with other people would be a massive understatement. From moving most of our meetings online to changing where and who we hang out with, basic socialization looks almost nothing like it did just a few months ago. But as the new normal takes shape, it's clear that certain habits may end up as yet another casualty of the coronavirus. According to epidemiologists, handshakes are definitely on the DNR list. But another common greeting may actually be safer: hugs.

Yes, according to Marc Van Ranst, a Belgian virologist, an embrace is actually safer than clasping hands. "A handshake remains difficult, [as] hands come into contact with each other and with the environment, which increases the chance of the spread," he told Het Nieuwsbald via The Brussels Times. He explains that it's best to avoid the antiquated greeting altogether, as more skin-to-skin contact increases the risk of transferring the virus to others.

senior woman hugging younger woman
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Doctors told The New York Times that there are safe new ways to hug during the pandemic, which includes turning faces in opposite directions or approaching from behind—making an embrace far safer than a traditional handshake.

Of course, there are still limits to how many hugs you should in go for. "Shaking everyone's hand at the conference table, you cannot do that anymore. But I [also] do not recommend replacing that with a hug," Van Ranst clarified. "Keep the hug for the people you have an affinity with."

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Van Ranst's advice echoes similar recommendations from more than 500 epidemiologists that The New York Times consulted. "I think the handshake is dead," Priyanka Gogna of Queen's University told The Times, although she admits that she would "likely hug a few personal contacts in the distant future as a greeting where appropriate." Other respondents, such as T. Christopher Bond, an epidemiologist with Bristol Myers Squibb, claims that anyone in the know has never felt comfortable with the custom, saying: "Real epidemiologists don't shake hands." And for more on the new rules of socialization, check out The Bizarre New Way You'll Be Hugging People, According to Experts.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Zachary Mack
Zachary covers beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He's the owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York City and is a Certified Cicerone. Read more
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