The coronavirus pandemic has forced individuals across the world, including world leaders, to rethink their personal and social habits, from washing their hands to avoiding direct physical greetings. It is to this end that European diplomats and officials have begun to adopt President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s distinctly welcoming yet contact-free greeting during meetings.
While in Brussels last week, the Turkish president avoided shaking hands with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, opting instead to pat his chest in a traditional Turkish form of obeisance.
The NATO chief has since started greeting other officials using Erdoğan’s gesture. Like many leaders, Erdoğan has been calling on the public to avoid direct contact, including hand shakes, hugs and kisses to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Recently, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides and European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic greeted the German Health Minister Jens Spahn with Erdoğan’s salute in lieu of a handshake.
European Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides, center, and European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic, right, put their hands over their hearts in a gesture of hello to German Health Minister Jens Spahn during an extraordinary meeting of EU health ministers in Brussels to discuss the virus outbreak, Friday, March 6, 2020 (AP Photo)
Meanwhile, other leaders have started making use of the customary Indian "namaste" greeting, which is mostly accompanied by the joining of one's hands together before the chest.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar greeted each other with a namaste-style gesture last week, while next in line to the British throne, Prince Charles, also opted for the same greeting to avoid physical contact with others.
As Europe has become the main hub of the deadly virus over a short period, governments have shored up efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Turkey has 18 confirmed cases of the virus and has shut down schools, bars, and clubs. The government also has placed over 10,000 pilgrims who have returned from Saudi Arabia in quarantine.
The Turkish Parliament has barred visitors through March 31 as a precaution against the spread of the virus, the Parliament Speaker's Office said Friday.
Since originating in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 114 countries.