Johnson continued to shake hands as scientists called for it to stop

Boris Johnson continued to shake hands even as some scientists advising the Government on the coronavirus outbreak were calling for the practice to stop, it has emerged.

Papers released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) show that some scientists were calling for an end to hugging and handshaking in early March.

On March 3, the SPI-B group of behavioural scientists said it would send an important signal about the need for good hand hygiene in stopping the spread of the disease.

However on the same day, Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that he was continuing to shake the hands of people he met.

12 PHOTOS
Boris Johnson during the coronavirus outbreak
See Gallery
Boris Johnson during the coronavirus outbreak
In this handout photo provided by Number 10 Downing Street, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs the morning Covid-19 Meeting remotely after self isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus, at 10 Downing Street, London, Saturday, March 28, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street via AP)
ARCHIVO - En esta fotografía del jueves 2 de abril de 2020, el primer ministro británico Boris Johnson aplaude afuera de su casa en el número 11 de Downing Street para elogiar a los héroes locales que combaten el coronavirus, en Londres. (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street vía AP, archivo)
In this image taken from video of the TWITTER/@BorisJohnson, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks from self isolation which he has been in since contracting coronavirus, Friday April 3, 2020. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to a hospital with the coronavirus. Johnson’s office says he is being admitted for tests because he still has symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus. (TWITTER/@BorisJohnson via AP)
In this image taken from video of the TWITTER/@BorisJohnson, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces he has tested positive for the new coronavirus, Friday March 27, 2020. Johnson's office said he was tested after showing mild symptoms and was now self-isolating, but would continue to lead the country's response to COVID-19. (TWITTER/@BorisJohnson via AP)
File photo dated 25/03/2020 of Health Secretary Matt Hancock watching Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, both of them have tested positive for coronavirus.
File photo dated 23/03/2020 of a screen grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation from 10 Downing Street, London. The Prime Minister has said he has tested positive for coronavirus.
File photo dated 20/03/2020 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19), he says he has tested positive for coronavirus.
File photo dated 20/03/2020 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre), Chancellor Rishi Sunak (left) and Dr Jenny Harries (right) speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). The Prime Minister has said he has tested positive for coronavirus.
File photo dated 06/03/20 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the Mologic Laboratory in the Bedford technology Park in Bedfordshire, he says he has tested positive for coronavirus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside 10 Downing Street, London, joining in with a national applause for the NHS to show appreciation for all NHS workers who are helping to fight the Coronavirus.
(EDITOR�S NOTE: Image Archived 25/03/2020) Prime Minister Boris Johnson at one of his daily Downing Street Coronavirus Press Briefings. Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP has tested positive for coronavirus, Downing Street has announced that Mr Johnson has mild symptoms and will self-isolate in Downing Street. He will still be in charge of the government's handling of the crisis, the statement added. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, for the House of Commons for Prime Minister's Questions.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Two 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.

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

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said that Mr 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."

The SPI-B paper said: "There was agreement that Government should advise against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given existing evidence about the importance of hand hygiene.

"A public message against shaking hands has additional value as a signal about the importance of hand hygiene.

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

The same day, Mr Johnson told reporters at a press conference in Downing Street: "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."

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS