Australia had its first coronavirus fatality over the weekend as the infection rate continues to climb. Handshakes are now off the table, with the virus having some unexpected consequences for both beer and the environment.

Handshakes a touchy issue

Handshakes are now a social faux pas, with a senior World Health Organisation official endorsing “elbow bumps” and “footshakes” as a safe alternative.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced at an event she would not be shaking anyone’s hands. French authorities have also recommended people avoid shaking hands, while Premier League soccer club Newcastle United has banned the greeting. 

A poor turn of phrase came from Nigerian officials, who asked stakeholders to “join hands to prevent its outbreak in the state”. In the same press statement, the virus was labelled a threat to “the entire human existence”.

Some unintended consequences

Americans have turned away from the popular beer brand Corona. A survey found that 38% of beer drinkers said they wouldn’t buy Corona beer amid the outbreak — with a staggering 16% saying they were not sure whether the virus is related to Corona beer. 

Air pollution has dropped over China as factories remain closed, with NASA satellite monitoring detecting a significant decline of noxious gas. Researchers say the decrease is partly related to the virus, prompting the question as to whether the outbreak has a silver lining. 

An online game which teaches players about how diseases spread has seen a spike in popularity, with the makers of Plague Inc urging people to rely on information from authorities rather than the game.

In France, the Louvre has shut its doors after workers refused to go back to work following a meeting with management on how to minimise risk. It’s not known when the museum will reopen. 

The message is not quite getting through 

As Sydneysiders flocked to Oxford Street to stand shoulder to shoulder to watch the Mardi Gras parade over the weekend, Iranians at the epicentre of the country’s outbreak have continued to kiss and lick religious monuments in defiance of the outbreak. Religious leaders have called the Qom shrine a “place for healing”, saying it’s safe from diseases. 

In a similar vein, a South Korean religious leader is facing charges of gross negligence after allegedly hiding the names of affected church members from officials following coronavirus deaths. 

Meanwhile, US Vice-President Mike Pence, who has been appointed to lead the administration’s response to a coronavirus outbreak, was caught wiping his nose before shaking hands with doctors and US officials during an announcement on the virus.  

It’s also been revealed that more than a dozen workers were sent to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan without appropriate protective gear.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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