Italians are being urged to avoid the “double kiss” as it battles coronavirus .
Experts fear the traditional European greeting could fuel the spread of the sickness.
Experts say limiting contact, including pecks on the cheek and “bro hugs”, could help slow the march of the disease that has killed more than 2,700.
Michael Osterholm, an expert on infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota, said: “It’s one of the few things you can do yourself to actively reduce your risk.”
In Italy 12 people have died from the virus that spreads through droplets contained in coughs and sneezes.
Giorgia Nigri, a 36-year-old economist in Rome, said: “People in groups have started suggesting we don’t give each other the double kiss on the cheek as a greeting or goodbye anymore. With strangers, it makes sense.”
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Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said last night there are now more than 80,000 cases of Covid-19 in 34 countries.
He said: “While battling this disease and its spread, we must also learn from the response here in Italy. Your experience, difficult as it is, is also invaluable to our understanding of how to tackle the disease.
“The burden of Covid-19 is a shared one that requires a collective response from those near and far from its immediate impact today. Everyone needs to do their part.
“To the Italian people: Protect yourselves and others from getting sick by adhering to the guidance from your public health authorities and stay healthy while travelling.
This includes observing hand and respiratory hygiene.”
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