Australians still shouldn’t kiss, hug or handshake

As coronavirus cases and lockdown restrictions ease it’s easy to forget about some of the earliest advice given about preventing the coronavirus spread.

But Australian deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth has said that the weekend upswing in COVID-19 cases in Victoria should serve as a “timely reminder” about the “personal responsibility” all of us have in preventing the virus’ spread.

This includes keeping our distance from others and not hugging, kissing or hugging friends and family as many of us reunite for the first time in months due to eased restrictions.

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“Well that’s certainly my personal view, these are the sort of things that have to stay the same,” Dr Coatsworth said when asked if Australians could resume handshaking and hugging.

“There are various things that help us transmit the virus and very close contact is one of them.”

Dr Coatsworth conceded it was “a hard thing to remember” not to hug or shake hands, but was more important than other measures like face masks.

“You’ve got to catch yourself out now when you see your friends and family who you haven’t seen for a long time, but these things are nonetheless important and are arguably far more important then say wearing masks,” he said.

People outside of Victoria should still be wary of any close contact and remember “critically important” social distancing measures.

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“Importantly as well for those states where restrictions are lifting, that doesn’t imply a lifting of our personal behaviour standards that we’ve become so used to,” Dr Coatsworth said.

“So the critically important elements to stopping the virus transmitting from one person to another (are) excellent hand hygiene, downloading the COVIDSafe app, keeping our distance where we can, and importantly playing very close attention to our own symptoms.”

Despite other countries like Britain and the United States encouraging the wearing of masks in public, Dr Coatsworth said Australia was yet to reach a point where face coverings were necessary.

The position that we have taken, the AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee), on face masks use in particular remains the same,” he said.

“In this circumstance where we only have very low levels of community transmission, that the value of face masks in the community is limited and that recommendation hasn’t changed.”


Back in mid-March Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australians it was no longer safe to handshake.

“No more handshakes,” he said during a live address.

“This is a new thing we’ve moved to, something I will be practising, my cabinet members and others are practising.

“This is not something that was necessarily a key requirement weeks ago but it’s just another step up now.”

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard recommended that people replace hand shaking with other greetings, saying it was “not necessary”.

“It is a very Australian thing to do to put your hand out and shake hands for example,” he said.

“I would be suggesting it is time that Aussies actually gave each other a pat on the back for the time being.

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