Mark Rutte had to put his hands up after contravening his own handshake ban second after unveiling the new measure to stop the coronavirus from spreading. After urging Dutch citizens to look for “variations” to shaking hands in an attempt to slow down the COVID-19 epidemic, the Prime Minister turned to Public Health Institute’s Jaap van Dissel to share a handshake. Mr Rutte immediately recovered from the faux pas, saying: “Sorry, sorry. We can’t do that anymore.”
Grabbing Mr van Dissel from his elbow, the Dutch Prime Minister asked for a do-over and exchanged an elbow bump with the health official before walking away with a smile on his face and a hand around Mr van Dissel’s shoulders.
Unveiling the new health measures, Mr Rutte said: “From this moment on, we stop shaking hands.
“You can do a foot kiss, bump elbows, whatever you want.
“I see in schools all sorts of practical variations, with the exception of shaking hands. So from now on, we stop shaking hands.”
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The measures announced on Monday are believed to be issued in direct response to an increase of coronavirus cases throughout Europe in the past few weeks.
The Netherlands at time of writing recorded 321 cases of COVID-19 and the Dutch Government has asked all workers who can do so to work from home to avoid spreading the infection further.
A large part of the infections has been recorded in the Noord-Brabant region, with virologist Mario Koopmans suggesting the Carnaval celebrations held in the area last month could have contributed to pushing the number of cases up.
Dr Koopmans said: “All you need is one infectious person in a crowded cafe to spread the virus.
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“People think that they are tough and can deal with it. But if they are in a busy place or if they cough now and then, things can go very wrong.”
The growing number of cases pushed the Italian Government to put the whole country into lockdown after over patients rose by 1,800 between Sunday and Monday.
Around 16 million people had already been placed under quarantine after the Lombardy region was quarantined at the weekend in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also announced a ban on gatherings in public places or outdoors due to coronavirus.
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The new measures will be in effect from Tuesday morning, with the Prime Minister signing a decree immediately.
Austria on Tuesday made the unprecedented decision to close its borders to coronavirus-hit Italy, which is currently on lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Italians will only be able to enter Austria if they have a medical certificate proving they are free of the coronavirus. Mr Kurz also confirmed Austrians returning from Italy would have to self-isolate for two weeks.
The Austrian Chancellor said: “Regarding Austrians in Italy, we are currently organising a repatriation of these Austrians.”
Meanwhile, Germany and Switzerland are locked in a dispute over Bern’s access to face masks in the fight against coronavirus.
The skirmish erupted after Angela Merkel’s Government blocked a truck carrying 240,000 face masks entering Switzerland from Germany at the German-Swiss border.
Rainer Breul, a spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office, said Germany wanted to “show solidarity here in Europe”, but the German government was keen to meet the needs in Berlin as a “priority”.
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