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Elbow bumps, foot taps, the wink: new greetings in the time of coronavirus

The elbow bump

It looks a bit like the spout from I’m a Little Teapot and takes teamwork from both participants to nail the timing. Don’t go in too forcefully and be careful of your aim or you’ll have a sore funny bone.

Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. For a start, there’s the whole “cough into the crook of your elbow” thing.

“When greeting people, best to avoid elbow bumps because they put you within one metre of the other person,” tweeted Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation. “I like to put my hand on my heart when I greet people these days.”

Simple, effective and no touching of any body parts, even clothed ones. This one does come with a warning, however. If not performed with real conviction, the wave can resemble the early stages of a handshake.

That means there is real potential for the dreaded stutter shake, where one person reaches out and the other doesn’t reciprocate. Self-isolation might be preferable after such embarrassment.

The bow

Another greeting already in circulation is the Indian “namaste” or Thai “wai”, where the two palms are pressed together along with a small bow.

Some leaders have already claimed this as the best option, including Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.

Prince Charles appears to also have decided this is the one for him, using the greeting at this week’s Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

The wink

If ever there was the chance for mixed messages, it’s here. Proceed with caution.

In France, Italy and Spain, where kissing is very popular, the suggestion that people refrain from delivering a peck on the cheek has caused dismay.

So if you can’t kiss someone, you could try the next best thing: give the gesture of a chef who has just executed a dish with precision.

To perform, bring together thumb and forefinger, kiss them and separate. Just make sure you’ve washed your hands first, which you should when cooking anyway.

The salute

When addressing someone of senior rank, such as your boss or mum, the salute is a way of showing respect without offering up your potentially virus-riddled hands.

Bringing hand to face, however, does present another chance for respiratory droplets to reach the T-zone of mouth, nose and eyes. Perhaps the best option is just to text them.

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