Government advisers told to stop shaking hands the day Boris Johnson boasted about doing it

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference, at 10 Downing Street on the governmen

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference, at 10 Downing Street on the government's coronavirus action plan. Photograph: Frank Augstein/PA. - Credit: PA

Scientific advisers recommended stopping the shaking of hands with others on the day the prime minister boasted he was doing so with 'everybody' at a hospital.

Boris Johnson attempts to shake Phillip Schofield's hand on This Morning. Photograph: ITV.

Boris Johnson attempts to shake Phillip Schofield's hand on This Morning. Photograph: ITV. - Credit: Archant

Newly-released documents of the Independent Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), a subcommittee of the government's scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) committee, revealed that the government was advised against shaking hands and hugging on March 3.

'There was agreement that government should advise against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given existing evidence about the importance of hand hygiene,' said the minutes.

'Promoting a replacement greeting or encouraging others to politely decline a proffered hand-shake may have benefit.'

But on the same day the prime minister was boasting about shaking hands.


You may also want to watch:


He told journalists at a Downing Street briefing: 'I am shaking hands. I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were coronavirus patients and I was shaking hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.

'People must make up their own minds but I think the scientific evidence is ... our judgment is that washing your hands is the crucial thing.'

Most Read

It was later clarified that the prime minister had said he had shook hands with NHS workers rather than actual sick patients.

But wo days later the prime minister made a point of shaking hands with Phillip Schofield, even though the presenter kept his hands to his sides when he interviewed him on ITV's This Morning.


Have your say

Send your letters for publication to The New European by emailing letters@theneweuropean.co.uk and pick up an edition each Thursday for more comment and analysis. Find your nearest stockist here or subscribe to a print or digital edition for just £13. You can also join our readers' Facebook group to keep the discussion and debate going with thousands of fellow pro-Europeans.


He was then photographed on March 9 shaking hands with the boxer Anthony Joshua at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

Just three weeks after making the remarks Johnson tested positive for coronavirus.

The prime minister's official spokesman said that Johnson would not have been aware at the time of the SPI-B paper, which did not at that point represent the considered view of SAGE.

'The PM wouldn't have seen that advice. The PM was very clear at the time, he was taking a number of precautionary steps including frequently washing his hands,' the spokesman said.

'Once the social distancing advice was changed, the prime minister's approach changed.'

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

Become a supporter
Comments powered by Disqus