The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has already led French authorities to ban public gatherings with over 5,000 people in a confined space, and the country’s Health Minister Olivier Veran has now advised citizens to refrain from a certain custom to avoid potential risks.
During a media briefing in Paris on 29 February, Veran urged people to avoid performing "la Bise", i.e. greeting others with kisses, or air kisses, on the cheeks along with shaking hands.
"The reduction in social contacts of a physical nature is advised. That includes the practice of the bise. The virus is circulating in our territory and we must now slow down it spread", he said as quoted by the Daily Mail.
His concerns seemed to have been echoed by Italy’s Civil Protection Department chief Angelo Borrelli who mused that
"We have a collective social life that is very florid, very expansive. We have lots of contact, we shake hands, we kiss each other, we hug each other," Borelli told reporters. "Maybe it is better in this period not to shake hands, and do not have too much contact, and try to be a bit less expansive, which is different from how I am."
The world-famous Louvre Museum has also closed its doors as their staff apparently refused to come to work due to coronavirus fears.
"We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere. The risk is very, very, very great", Louvre employee and union representative Andre Sacristin said, adding that while there are currently no known infections among the museum workers, "it's only a question of time".
At this time, France has had 100 coronavirus cases and two deaths, according to AP.