As the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, government leaders and others are getting creative in greeting one another, as the world transitions away from traditional handshakes and hugs to minimize the spread of germs.

World leaders have adopted a range of new greetings ― including elbow bumps and foot shakes ― following World Health Organization advice to stop handshaking. Even some of those methods, however, don’t go far enough, say health officials, who advise social distancing with greetings that don’t require touching at all.

Here are some of the greetings that are being used as society moves away from contact.

Hand on heart

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he’s opting for hand on heart in lieu of handshaking, which enables him to greet people at least three feet away.

“When greeting people, best to avoid elbow bumps because they put you within one meter of the other person. I like to put my hand on my heart when I greet people these days,” he said.

During #COVID19, I am opting for hand-on-heart instead of hand shakes.The photo of @Hughcevans and me was taken a year ago when he visited @WHO. Thanks for noting this and special thanks for taking protective measures against #coronavirus.

— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 12, 2020 Elbow bump

While no longer recommended, this handshake alternative was already adopted by many officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Prince Harry, who was spotted exchanging the move with singer Craig David.

While the elbow bump does limit skin-to-skin contact, it’s better to use greetings that allow for more distance, given the virus can spread between people within six feet of one another.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders share an elbow bump before the start of the #DemDebate, which is in a closed studio with no audience.

— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) March 16, 2020

Trump went for a handshake and was met with an elbow bump.Yes, that really just happened. In the Rose Garden. On live television.

— Jake Lahut (@JakeLahut) March 13, 2020

So @VP and @GovInslee making the elbow bump the new handshake. What is your substitute for the handshake? #Q13FOX #COVIDー19

— Hana Kim (@hanamkim) March 7, 2020 The namaste bow

Many have taken to the Indian greeting of namaste, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed the world is increasingly moving to adopt it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, French President Emmanuel Macron, President Donald Trump, and Prince Charles are among world leaders spotted using the greeting.

Netanyahu encouraged Israelis to adopt the Indian alternative, Trump joked during a press conference following his return from his India trip that it was easy to avoid handshaking there, and Prince Charles was seen retracting a handshake and offering the palms-together greeting instead at a recent London event.

Nice to see the namaste gesture being used by Prince Charles, as he avoids handshakes amid fears of coronavirus. ‘Namaste’ is a Sanskrit word, used predominantly by Hindus, meaning ‘I bow to you’. The gesture is used by people of many religions. #CommonwealthDay #coronavirus

— Anila Chowdhry (@AnilaDhami) March 9, 2020

A month ago we were talking of Namaste Trump.Now – Namaste Macron, Namaste Charles, Namaste Netanyahuand more….🙏

— Kiran Kumar S (@KiranKS) March 15, 2020 The foot shake

Tanzanian President John Magufuli was pictured tapping feet with the leader of the opposition party Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad earlier this month. And in China, some of those in the original epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak reportedly dubbed the greeting the “Wuhan shake.”

Again, while this is safer than handshaking, unless you have extraordinarily long legs you’ll probably not be able to stick to the distance rule when using this greeting, so it’s better to use an alternative.

Goodbye handshake – it's all about the 'Wuhan shake'.

— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 8, 2020

A range of other options have been proposed on social media. Here are some of the suggestions that don’t require contact:


We as a society need to stop shaking hands. I recommend a Curtsy. It’s lovely. #CoronaVirus

— Keppler (@RadioKeppler) March 11, 2020 Thumbs up

Acceptable alternatives to a handshake:Thumbs upSlight nodBow from the waistTapping shoesMiming being stuck in a boxWarily circling one another with eyes lockedCurling into a ball and rolling awayFull Donald Sutherland#coronavirus

— Oonagh (@Okeating) March 11, 2020 Spock’s “Live long and prosper”

Spock's Vulcan salute should replace handshakes in coronavirus era – CNET

— Garrett Wang (@GarrettRWang) March 11, 2020 Jazz hands

I I feel like my suggestion of jazz hands in lieu of handshakes yesterday was not as enthusiastically received as I anticipated it to be

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