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Few of us know that the current N95 mask was the brainchild of a single woman called Sarah Turnbull who while tending to her ill relatives went to the 3M company and suggested a safer mask.

Never have masks played such an important role in our lives. They are even making designer masks now and you have to pay top whack for them.

My introduction to masks was the Lone Ranger and as kids we would cut out our own and paint them black. Then came the broader Zorro mask and you could buy them in the shops.

The word mask comes from the Latin "mascus" and "chew" which means ghost. In Arab, "maskharah" literally means jester and man with mask. That is why comedy and tragedy are traditionally depicted through masks. So much for the phantom of the opera.

The main reason that masks were worn was for theatrical purposes, and Greeks and Romans used them to change the character and expression of the actors.

In Africa, they used them to make contact with ancestors and even today there are people who collect masks from different parts of the world.

For the Chinese, masks represent religious symbols and we use them to hide our feelings.

Then there is Halloween.

Few of us know that the current N95 mask was the brainchild of a single woman called Sarah Turnbull who while tending to her ill relatives went to the 3M company and suggested a safer mask. The podcast Throughline relates how it went down. And so she spent a considerable amount of time in the medical situation with, you know, doctors and nurses and watching them fiddling around with these flat masks that they had to tie on. And she just was thinking, oh, man, I wonder if there isn't some way we can make a better one.

And in 1961 she did create what was the forerunner to the N95.


Washington — A new OSHA safety alert lists measures employers in the manufacturing industry should take to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The alert calls on employers to encourage workers to stay home when sick, as well as report any safety or health concerns. The agency recommends limiting duration of work activities when physical distancing isn’t feasible. Other suggestions: Move or reposition workstations to create more distance, or consider installing barriers (e.g., plexiglass shields) between workstations.

The alert states employers should “monitor public health communications about COVID-19 recommendations for the workplace and ensure that workers have access to and understand that information.” Workers should be educated on the proper ways to put on, take off, maintain and use/wear protective clothing and equipment.

Other tips:

■ Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
■ Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
■ Discourage workers from using co-workers’ tools and equipment.
■ Use disinfectant products listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as effective against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19.
■ Promote personal hygiene. If workers don’t have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Provide disinfectants and disposable towels workers can use to clean work surfaces.


The number one question on the mind of business leaders today is how to keep their employees safe. When you work for an agriculture company that is part of the world’s critical food infrastructure, that question becomes even more important. In addition to worrying about productivity, profitability and business continuity, you must also be cognizant of the impact that any disruption could have on the global food supply.

As the COVID-19 pandemic struck, my team and I were able to transition over 4.000 people to new ways of working while remaining operational and keeping a continued focus on the health and safety of every worker. We did this by developing tools and procedures that allowed agility in a rapidly changing and new environment. This approach resulted in our ability to make fast and effective decisions that have kept our teams safe and delivered on our commitments to our customers. While we recognize that we will continue to face new challenges in the weeks and months to come, we feel confident that we have the right systems and processes in place to help us manage through it.

Here’s what we learned over the past three months:

Make It Easy for Employees to Provide Information to Business Leaders: We quickly recognized that the first thing we needed to do when the coronavirus pandemic hit was to create a process for quick employee self-reporting of symptoms potentially associated with coronavirus. This self-report would initiate employee contact by a medical professional while allowing us to monitor coronavirus outbreaks throughout the region This sounds easy on the surface, but it’s really anything but. Traditionally, when someone is sick, they send an email to their manager and the process of follow up is done through non-centralized means. Under normal circumstances, this process works well, but when you’re trying to ascertain the health of 4,500 employees across the region at the same time, its limitations quickly become apparent.

We realized that in order to get our arms around the situation we were facing, we needed to build a self-serve online North America Coronavirus Response Portal. Despite not having coding skills, our team was able to create this powerful tool in a few days using Smartsheet and within just six weeks, the portal received over 28,000 views and interactions across more than 65 Syngenta locations in North America.

Our lesson was that when you create a process that makes it easy for people to share information quickly, they’ll do it. When you make it cumbersome, people will find a reason to put it off. By creating a simple and visually appealing way for employees to follow this critical coronavirus control, not only were they more likely to follow the requirements but most importantly they appreciated the quick contact they received by our medical professionals due to the process capabilities.

Overcommunicate with Your Employees: Of course, communication is a two-way street. As much as the company needed information from employees, the employees were hungry for information from the company. We quickly expanded the portal to become a single access point for information on the status of sites (operational, closed, or open for essential activities only) as well as a hub for employee training, and news and government advisories. We also provided the latest information on the status of our PPE supply chain, shipment status and other information updates for essential equipment.

Leverage Automation: With so many employees updating us on their health status, it’s impossible to respond to all of them individually. Automation has helped us ensure that employees know their voices are heard and that they can access any assistance they need.

For example, if someone clicks a box saying that they’ve been feeling sick, they’ll next be asked about their symptoms, whether they’ve seen a doctor, and so on. Depending on how they answer, the Smartsheet platform will automatically pass their information to HIPPA-trained doctors and nurses who will follow up with them confidentially.

Give Back: Our North America Coronavirus Response Portal was so successful; that we decided to create an additional portal focused on employee Wellbeing. This portal was created to support our employees to stay healthy, active, and manage stress during these unprecedented times. The employee Wellbeing Portal worked so well that we decided to make it available to our customers, families and communities as a gift from the Syngenta team. We also encouraged employees to share it with their loved ones, first responders and others. On launch day alone, we had over 1,000 hits from the community wellbeing portal, demonstrating the need people have for tools that will help them cope with the challenges of this health crisis. Opening the portal not only helped our communities, it also gave employees something to feel good about during a difficult time.

The key to managing through the COVID-19 crisis is understanding and mitigating the risk. The Coronavirus Response Portal and Wellbeing Portals have helped us quickly mitigate risks, keep our employees safe and deliver for the customers.

If this crisis had happened even five years ago, we likely would have been dealing with a deluge of email, which would have caused slower responses, confusion and a lack of accurate data, all of which leads to increased business risk. We have delivered on our commitments to employees and customers during this unprecedented time, and the use of technology that has empowered the Syngenta team to stay ahead of the curve as we deal with one of the most challenging times of our lifetime.


Atlanta — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines intended to help businesses, as well as schools and mass transit operations, safely reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 60-page guidance document outlines a three-phase approach that includes six “gating criteria” to move forward, including decreases in newly identified COVID-19 cases, decreases in percentage of positive tests and a robust testing program.

CDC advises employers to consider a variety of measures for keeping people safe, such as practices for “scaling up” operations, safety actions (e.g., cleaning and disinfection, and physical distancing), monitoring possible reemergence of the virus, and maintaining health operations. Workers who are at high risk for severe illness (i.e., anyone over the age of 65 or with existing health conditions) “should be encouraged to self-identify, and employers should avoid making unnecessary medical inquiries.”

Employers should move to the next phase only if they can ensure a certain level of physical distancing, proper cleaning and disinfection, and protection of workers and customers.

Additionally, employers are advised to limit nonessential travel based on state and local guidance, ask employees who use public transportation to adapt to teleworking, and train all managers on recommended safety actions. This training can be conducted virtually.

The guidance also provides details on conducting routine, daily health checks; planning for when an employee becomes sick; maintaining healthy operations; and when to consider closing because of an illness.


The market witnessed the highest levels of adherence to the guidelines since the market reopening with zero fines.

Shops in Dubai continued to maintain full compliance with Covid-19 guidelines on Friday, the Dubai Economy has said.

The market witnessed the highest levels of adherence to the guidelines since the market reopening with zero fines, zero shutdowns, and zero warnings issued on Friday. All 224 businesses inspected on Friday were fully following the precautionary measures put in place to stymie the spread of coronavirus.

Dubai witnessed 100 per cent compliance rate by the commercial outlets during the daily inspections carried out on Wednesday.

Dubai Economy called on consumers to report any non-compliance with the Covid-19 precautionary guidelines via the Dubai Consumer App available on Apple, Google, and Huawei stores; by calling 600545555, or on the Consumerrights.ae website.

Earlier, it announced 10am to 10pm as official hours for shopping malls during weekdays and up to 12pm over the weekend.


Industrial hygiene may not be a household name, but our knowledge base is exactly what is needed to help win this fight. The American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) defines the discipline as (emphasis added):

“Industrial hygiene is the science of protecting and enhancing the health and safety of people at work and in their communities. Health and safety hazards cover a wide range of chemical, physical, biological and ergonomic stressors. Those dedicated to anticipating, recognizing, evaluating and controlling those hazards are known as Industrial Hygienists. They are professionals dedicated to the well-being of people – at work, at home and in the community.”

A major responsibility of Industrial Hygienists (IHs) is to educate both the workforce and management about the hazards in their workplaces. We know how to evaluate hazards and use all the controls available to mitigate risk. For instance:

• IHs understand the physics of aerosols and how a cough, sneeze or even speech can spread virus-containing droplets through the air, and what it takes to engineer out a hazard using ventilation, filtration and barriers.
• His understand the chemistry of disinfectants and know what is effective at neutralizing the virus and what it takes to effectively decontaminate a person or surface.
• IHs understand physical means of virus destruction such as heat, cold, ultraviolet light and ionization.
• IHs routinely measure the quantity of hazardous substance in a workplace and can verify whether cleaning procedures are working to remove virus surface contamination in a given environment.
• IHs know the ins and outs of personal protective equipment, in particular respiratory protection.
• IHs know how to devise and educate workers on administrative controls.

Engineering Controls

In the hierarchy of controls engineering controls are at the forefront when it comes to a naturally occurring airborne biological hazard. Where an infection exists isolation of a space by putting it under negative pressure with HEPA filtration is essential to keep the virus from spreading. A NASA study has shown that HEPA filtration can effectively capture the virus even though it is very small (approximately 0.125 micrometers in diameter.)

Barriers are another means of protecting workers. One example is workers in a meat packing plant working side by side, on a production line. Easily cleaned Plexiglas barriers were placed between each worker. This, along with the other controls, improved employee protection. We’ve likely all seen the see-through barriers going up in grocery stores to help separate checkout clerks from the general public.

Administrative Controls

In the workplace, administrative controls are practices people must participate in to protect themselves. Though social distancing, hand washing, and avoidance of face touching seem like simple rules they must be continually reinforced. Through training sessions, IHs emphasize the importance of these cardinal rules and teach management how to effectively and continually reinforce them.

Housekeeping is of paramount importance in controlling exposure to SARS Cov-2. IHs recommend procedures and disinfectants that neutralize the virus or wash it away on surfaces and equipment. IHs can verify the effectiveness of a housekeeping procedure.

Personal Protective Equipment

Respiratory protection is a profound area of expertise for the industrial hygienist. Since 1971 IHs have relied on laboratory certification of respirators by the U.S. HHS Department’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which at that time took over respirator certification from the US Bureau of Mines. NIOSH certifies respirators for a specific range of uses. Any respirator use requires training and fit testing and IHs are able provide this training to workers in many settings.

The pandemic poses a unique problem for healthcare workers and others who must wear respiratory protection when dealing with SARS-CoV-2. The respirator of choice for most, the N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFR) though manufactured in large quantities, are still not sufficient in number to prevent shortages. These FFRs are meant to be disposed of after a single use, but they have to be reused, often for several days due to the shortage. IHs are trained in the function, selection, cleaning and care of respirators and can advise users of the best ways to deal with FFR reuse in this unique situation.

IHs have also been on the forefront of suggesting the pros and cons of alternative face coverings, including suggestions on what not to use. For instance, furnace filters have been suggested as a face covering material, but should not be used because furnace filters may contain fiberglass that may be released. Cotton bandanas, though inefficient at filtration are okay to use when something better isn’t available to prevent an infected person from unknowingly transmitting the virus. IHs specify other PPE too, e.g. eye, hand, and gowns.


The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Many industries have closed their doors to shelter-in-place, while many have remained open and deemed essential. Asbestos abatement professionals have been affected by the shutdowns around the country, too. In some ways they have been able to use this as an opportunity; however, shortages of PPE have certainly created challenges.

Asbestos was used in everything from insulation and masonry to ceramic tiles; therefore, the chances of finding asbestos containing products in your home, if built before the 1980s, are high. Exposure to the material has been determined to cause numerous health problems like lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. These findings prompted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the new use and partially ban the manufacture, import, processing and distribution of asbestos and asbestos containing products in 1989 throughout the United States. Unfortunately, asbestos exposure can still be a serious risk for those living and working in structures built before the 1980s.

If asbestos or asbestos containing products are found in a building, an abatement professional should be consulted promptly to determine the proper course of action. If the asbestos containing product is not damaged, it may be best to leave the material undisturbed. However, if it is damaged and asbestos is able to break off and become airborne, immediate action should be taken. Abatement professionals will safely test the material to confirm it is asbestos and determine if the area is safe for you to inhabit while they help you find the best solution. In some cases, the material can be encapsulated and left in place. In more severe instances, the material must be removed.

Asbestos abatement is an involved process that requires specialized equipment. It is crucial to create a sealed chamber where the removal takes place, utilize negative pressure in the containment area and use proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

During this unprecedented time, PPE has become a scarce resource. If you work in asbestos removal and your employer does not have the proper PPE due to shortages, do not remove asbestos anyways. The consequences to your health are not worth the risk. Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer. Mesothelioma takes ten or more years to develop, and it will likely be too late when symptoms arise. Regardless of the risk that the new coronavirus has placed on our society, the health problems that could result from asbestos exposure must be considered as well.

If abatement professionals are not available due to shortages of PPE, and you have found asbestos in your home while sheltering in place, it is highly recommended that you leave the material alone until a professional can assess the situation. Although there are no federal regulations in regards to removal by homeowners, if you do not use the proper PPE and environmental controls, you could be putting yourself and family members at risk.

Asbestos abatement professionals may also be utilizing this time to remove asbestos in buildings like schools. With many schools closed around the country, this is a good opportunity to remove asbestos in these buildings and protect young lives.

Meeting Today’s Needs

Asbestos abatement companies have the proper PPE to protect themselves against tiny asbestos fibers. Proper PPE includes respirators, tyvek suits and rubber gloves. Abatement company workers are also trained in the proper use of their PPE and know well how to protect themselves against environmental hazards. Since some asbestos removal projects may not be considered essential at this time, some abatement professionals have changed course. Utilizing their training and PPE, companies like JM Environmental have turned to coronavirus and COVID-19 decontamination. Not only will this keep abatement companies from furloughing workers during this time, but it is also a much-needed service to our communities.

Although some projects may be on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has also created an opportunity for asbestos abatement professionals. Whether that be asbestos removal in places like closed schools and universities or the decontamination of public places, abatement professionals are working hard to keep their workforces going and our communities safe. But proper use of PPE is a crucial first step in protecting your workforce from asbestos.


Most eye safety programs are built around the idea that good vision requires only image clarity and sound eye health, so the focus is on safety eyewear only. While these aspects of an eye safety program are essential, we have found workplace performance is impacted by vision for many other reasons all totally unrelated to eyeglasses.

Vision and the processing of visual information impact all aspects of performance including how people direct attention and maintain spatial awareness. An understanding of vision will improve any global safety program, even in areas considered unrelated to the eyes.

Situational Awareness

The combination of “attention” and “spatial awareness of surroundings” are important because they comprise a form of “situational awareness,” which is vital for safety. We scan for information while moving through a changing world. Imagine walking down the street and turning your eyes and head to read signs while your body moves forward. Yet you do not fall. Despite that you are moving, the words do not smear or jump.

Part of what supports this ability are your eye movements. Let’s briefly discuss two types. The first, the scanning type, you must choose to make. The purpose is to place your retina to “see” the word, which means present it to your attention. Your vision shuts off for a fraction of a second during this movement, so words don’t smear. Because this eye movement supports information gathering, it must always involve a shift in your attention.

Another type of eye movement, this one happening without your conscious awareness, holds the image upright and stable so you can see it. Even when you bend down or tilt your head your perception of the world stays upright. This is a requirement handled by your visual system though, in part, it is actually the regulation of your unconscious eye movements.

These eye movements, and the information they gather, is paired with other visual cues and sent to regions of your brain involved in planning movement, maintaining balance, and giving a sense of limb position, all impacting spatial awareness.

Vision Takes Place Unconsciously

Much of this visual processing happens unconsciously because people cannot pay attention fast enough to keep up with the demands of functioning in a complicated world. Attention takes a lot out of us. We would collapse in exhaustion before the morning coffee break if we had to consciously attend to all the visual information used to organize our world. Too great a perceptual load leads to fatigue.

Consider the simple task of walking from your car into the market. When did you stop to look at the curb as you passed from the parking lot into a store? Answer: Never. When did you last trip over the curb? Answer: Never. Now consider a person walking to the market while attending to their cellular phone. If you watch this person, you will see their gait is not the normal smooth gait of a person moving unencumbered. Steps are halting, oddly timed, abnormally short and perhaps abnormally “wide.”

If you watch them long enough, you will see that person trip over the curb and fall or get clipped by the automatic door. This person is at grave risk for a fall or “struck by” bodily injury because they have disordered the essential flexibility between their conscious and unconscious visual processes.

The brain is so overloaded with information requiring active mental processing, the unconscious visual processes cannot exert influence. The person on their phone is experiencing a constriction of their “perceptual” awareness, and this perceptual constriction is how people can become more prone to falls or other forms of injury.

High visual concentration can be dangerous

Think in terms of the skilled trades which demand significant visual concentration. Tradespeople might easily have a perceptual field that is constricted just doing their job the best way they can.

Construction sites are often busy, crowded, and loud which increases the perceptual load on the worker. These sites are thought dangerous because of hazards like unimproved ground and the demands for inherently dangerous equipment. This happens, in part, because of the tendency of the visual-perceptual system to reduce peripheral awareness during periods of high central concentration.

A warehouse worker examining towering racks of parts, while searching for one specific item, is an example of a person who can become so “centrally focused” that they lose awareness of what is happening around them. Seeking the part is an example of a person who is performing a complex visual skill called “visual figure-ground” perception.

Space awareness can easily be compromised by figure-ground perception

Figure-ground perception is isolating upon the specific in a sea of distracting detail. This process requires the ability to make rapid shifts of attention (yes, rapid eye movements) without “looking past” the desired item.

Most have experienced the difficulty of this looking for a grocery item. With so many nearly identical boxes, you can’t find your item. You summon the attendant who steps forward and puts their hand on a box directly in front of you at eye level. You were looking right at it. The longer you looked, the less aware of your surroundings the more perceptually constricted you became. Both your central processing of attention and peripheral processing of space awareness were compromised.

It’s not by accident that you are more likely to see a fall, spill or something dropped in a supermarket. Minor collisions of carts happen constantly and resolve with a smile and a “pardon me.”

People don’t suddenly become uncoordinated in the market. Shopping is an everyday task involving intensive central focus, frequent shifts of attention, and complex motor planning guiding the cart up and down the circuitous aisles. These collisions are no less evidence of visual-perceptual complexity for their harmlessness.

Mental Fatigue

Warehouse workers, after so many sequential eye movements, each requiring mental processing and shifts of attention, can experience mental fatigue and perceptual constriction. The use of lifts and ladders for accessing high shelves relatively restricts the “base of support” or the foundation on which a person stands and which supports them in maintaining balance and coordination. Perceptual constriction on a reduced base of support is a bad combination.

Selective attention and space awareness are complex processes rooted in the complexity of vision, specifically the visual underpinnings of shifting attention and unconscious planning of movement. The ability to maintain simultaneous central-peripheral awareness is a skill that is not shared equally by all people and a physiological process that can be either supported or confounded by our working demands and conditions.

These processes have little or nothing to do with eyeglasses or eye health. They are, nonetheless, visual processes. Vision is the foundational sense we all possess. 80% of all brain connections function in vision and the integration of visual inputs across many regions of the brain. Workers can easily be at risk for injury due to visual limitations despite having the best glasses and pristine eye health.


An 80-bed hospital has been opened up in the Abu Dhabi in a short span of 15 days to take care of Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms.

Reem Hospital, a portfolio company of Investcorp, in collaboration with the Department of Health and SEHA, on Sunday commissioned Dar Al Shifaa Hospital in Khalifa City A to make 80 beds available to support the UAE government in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reem Hospital said it has volunteered to operate and manage 80 beds at Dar Al Shifaa Hospital, on a non-profit basis, from April 22 for quarantine and care of Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms, in line with its commitment to support the UAE's relentless efforts in battling and eradicating the Covid-19 pandemic and safeguarding the community.

Zaid Al Siksek, Chairman, Reem Hospital, said: "We are honoured to support the UAE's leadership during this challenging time. Our management, employees and suppliers have worked around the clock over the past two weeks to allow Dar Al Shifaa Hospital to be operational and provide additional supply of beds, supporting existing healthcare infrastructure. We are proud to be collaborating with SEHA, providing support and expertise as we come together in the nation's fight against Covid-19."

Investcorp invested in Reem Hospital in 2018, as part of Investcorp's greater focus on healthcare in the MENA region. Investcorp's Head of Private Equity MENA, Walid Majdalani, said: "With the growing demand for quality healthcare due to Covid-19, we at Investcorp, along with our portfolio companies, are looking at various ways to support in curbing the Covid-19 pandemic. We are confident that the activation of Dar Al Shifaa Hospital will help address the need for hospital beds and medical staff in Abu Dhabi."

Reem Hospital is currently under construction on Abu Dhabi's Reem Island and set to open in the second half of 2020. The hospital will be a 200+ bed hospital focusing on post-acute rehabilitation and women and child health as well as outpatients and inpatient services. The hospital has been designed and built, and will be operated and managed, in partnership with Fresenius Vamed, a global developer and operator of healthcare assets focusing on post-acute rehabilitation. Reem Hospital aims to provide an integrated and value-based approach to healthcare with measurable patient outcomes.


Around the world, humans are struggling to ignore thousands of years of bio-social convention and avoid touching another. Shaking hands might be one of the hardest customs to lose in the post-pandemic world but there are alternatives, writes James Jeffrey.

The humble handshake spans the mundane to the potent, ranging from a simple greeting between strangers who will never meet again, to the sealing of billion-dollar deals between business titans.

There are various ideas about the origin of the handshake. It may have originated in ancient Greece as a symbol of peace between two people by showing that neither person was carrying a weapon. Or the shaking gesture of the handshake may have started in Medieval Europe, when knights would shake the hand of others in an attempt to shake loose any hidden weapons.

The Quakers are credited with popularising the handshake after they deemed it to be more egalitarian than bowing.

The handshake is a "literal gesture of human connectedness," a symbol of how humans have evolved to be deeply social, tactile-orientated animals, says Cristine Legare, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

With a history tracing back thousands of years, the handshake may be too entrenched to be easily halted.

"The fact we went for the elbow bump as an alternative shows how important touch is - we didn't want to lose that physical connecting," says Prof Legare.

That biological drive to touch and be touched is found in other animals as well. In the 1960s American psychologist Harry Harlow demonstrated how vital touch and affection was for the development of young rhesus monkeys.

• Why going without physical touch is so hard

Other examples from the animal kingdom include our closest cousins: chimpanzees typically touch palms, hug and sometimes kiss as a form of greeting. Giraffes use their necks that can reach two metres in length to engage in a type of behaviour called "necking" - with male giraffes entwining their neck with each other's and swaying and rubbing to assess the other's strength and size to establish dominance.

That said, numerous forms of human greeting exist around the world that avoid the transmission trap. Many cultures embrace pressing the palms of hands together with fingers pointing up while accompanied by a slight bow, the traditional Hindu Namaste greeting being one of the most well-known.

In Samoa there is the "eyebrow flash" that comprises raising your eyebrows while flashing a big smile at the person you are greeting.

In Muslim countries, a hand over a heart is a respectful way to greet someone you are not accustomed to touching. And there is the Hawaiian shaka sign, adopted and popularised by American surfers, made by curling the three middle fingers and extending you thumb and smallest finger while shaking your hand back and forth for emphasis.

Physical touch has not always been deemed so critical. During the first half of the 20th Century, many psychologists believed that showing affection to children was simply a sentimental gesture that served no real purpose - even cautioning that displays of affection risked spreading diseases and contributing to adult psychological problems.

• The psychology of panic buying
• The fear of coronavirus is changing our psychology

In her book Don't Look, Don't Touch, behavioural scientist Val Curtis of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says that one possible reason that handshakes and kisses on cheeks endure as greetings is because they signal that the other person is trusted enough to risk sharing germs with - hence the history of the practices going in and out of style depending on public health concerns.

In the 1920s, articles appeared in the American Journal of Nursing that warned of hands being the agents of bacterial transfer, and recommending that Americans adapt the Chinese custom at the time, of shaking one's own hands together when greeting a friend.

There have been more recent objections to handshakes that pre-date the coronavirus outbreak: in 2015, a UCLA hospital established a handshake-free zone in its intensive care unit (the UCLA policy only lasted six months).

Meanwhile, many Muslim women throughout the world have objected to handshakes based on religious grounds.

But despite such reservations and incidences of conscientious objectors to handshakes, as the 20th century progressed the gesture evolved into a near universal and unassailable symbol of professional greeting.

Scientific studies of the ritual have identified how a good handshake activates the same part of the brain that processes other types of reward stimulus such as good food, drink and even sex.

A future without handshakes?

As some states in the US begin to ease lockdown measures, the future of the handshake remains uncertain.

"I don't think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you," Dr Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said back in April.

"Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease; it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country."

Social distancing guidelines will likely stay in place for a long time to come, according to US government's guidelines for re-opening the country, especially for vulnerable people like the elderly and those with medical co-morbidities such as lung disease, obesity and diabetes.


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