The Prime Minister has been robust during the disease’s spread, saying his favourite greeting was OK as long as people were fastidious about cleansing their digits afterwards.
But after attending a Commonwealth Day event at Westminster Abbey in
Addressing reporters after the event, he was quizzed about the ban on handshakes at the event, which was attended by the Queen and all the senior royals.
‘We were all given an instruction not to shake hands and there is a good reason for not shaking hands, which is that the behavioral psychologists say that if you don’t shake somebody’s hand that sends an important message to them about the importance of washing your hands,’ he admitted.
‘So there is a subliminal cue there to everybody to wash your hands.’
Last week Mr Johnson dismissed the trend for coronavirus ‘elbow bumps’ – saying he was perfectly happy to keep shaking hands with people.
The Queen was also seen greeting guests without a handshake today, when she met the high commissioner of Sri Lanka, Sarosa Sirisena.
This was a move away from last week when she did shake hands with people but wore gloves as she handed out OBEs and MBEs for what was believed to be the first time ever.
Mr Johnson attended a Commonwealth Day event at Westminster Abbey in London with pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds which barred the practice. He appeared to forget as as he greeted boxer Anthony Joshua
The Prince of Wales instead used the Indian namaste greeting at a later reception at Marlborough House
Mr Johnson shaking hands with the Maltese president George Vella in Downing Street last week
The PM joked that he was still carrying out the traditional greeting ‘continuously’, citing scientific advice that it is fine as long as you keep washing your hands.
His change of heart came as his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, was embarrassed at a coronavirus press conference when he shook hands with a scientists after telling his people to avoid the practice.
Mr Rutte called on citizens of the Netherlands to stop shaking hands to prevent spreading Covid-19 and then somewhat undermined his message by shaking hands with the head of the infectious diseases department of the national public health institute.
‘From this moment on, we stop shaking hands,’ Mr Rutte said at a news conference following a crisis meeting of government ministers to discuss the virus, which has killed three people and infected 321 in the country.
‘You can do a foot kiss, bump elbows, whatever you want,’ he said.
Mr Rutte called on citizens of the Netherlands to stop shaking hands to prevent spreading Covid-19 and then somewhat undermined his message by shaking hands with the head of the infectious diseases department of the national public health institute
Boris Johnson pictured extending his hand to the religious leader. The hashtag ‘StopShakingHands’ has been widely used on Twitter amid the coronavirus outbreak
The Prime Minister quickly snatches back his hand as he remembers handshakes are advised against at the venue. He was following guidance from Westminster Abbey
Mr Johnson holding up his hands in a gesture of innocence at Westminster Abbey while his fiancee Carrie Symonds (left) and the religious leader (right) appear to chuckle in response
‘I see all kinds of great variations on shaking hands emerging at schools, but from today we stop shaking hands.’
As he wrapped up the news conference, he shook hands with Jaap van Dissel of the public health institute, who quickly pointed out the prime minister’s error.
‘Sorry, sorry, we can’t do that anymore! Do it again,’ Mr Rutte said as he bumped elbows with Mr van Dissel.
Mr Johnson did remember the ban at the Abbey. When greeting a religious leader he proffered his hand before sharply pulling it backwards.
Mr Johnson then holds his hands up in a gesture of innocence while his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, and the religious leader appear to chuckle
Guests followed following general advice that was introduced by the Abbey to its congregation a couple of weeks ago.