NEW DELHI : Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday urged his countrymen to adopt namaste—the Indian way of greeting and welcoming people with folded hands—instead of shaking hands, as a measure to prevent the spread of the deadly Covid-19.
At a press conference following a review meeting on the epidemic, Netanyahu said several measures will be announced to prevent the spread of the virus, a PTI report from Jerusalem said. But some simple steps such as avoiding handshakes while greeting people may be replaced with other forms of greetings like the Indian namaste, he’s reported to have said, as he demonstrated how Indians greet each other with a namaste, at the press meet.
Incidentally, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, secretary in charge of overseas Indian and consular, passport and visa affairs in the Indian foreign ministry, had on 16 February suggested something similar to beat Covid-19 in a Twitter post. “Time to make #namaskar go global! It has deeper significance and in times of #COVID19 its best to switch from physical contact to spiritual bonding.”
On Wednesday, the internet was also awash with video clips of German chancellor Angela Merkel coming into a meeting offering to shake hands with someone, who refuses it amid the spread of Covid-19.
The PTI report said that Netanyahu had told the gathering that “we are in the middle of a global epidemic”, but Israel has done well, as it was quick in taking action to prevent the spread of the virus. Israel has 15 confirmed cases of the deadly virus, but no deaths have so far been reported. As a preventive measure, around 7,000 people have been home-quarantined. Israeli health minister Yaacov Litzman has announced a ban on public gatherings of more than 5,000 people. The ministry has asked people to refrain from any unnecessary foreign trip. Over 3,200 people worldwide have died as a result of Covid-19.
Reacting to Netanyahu’s post, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, in a tweet in Hindi, said: ‘Behind every Indian tradition, there is science. That is why India is great.’ The post was accompanied by a namaste emoticon.
India has so far reported 30 confirmed cases of Covid-19. More than 611,000 people have been screened at airports till Wednesday. India started screening of passengers on 18 January initially at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi airports. It is now operational across 21 airports.
“Screening of passengers has also been initiated in 12 major seaports and 65 minor ports in the country to identify passengers and crew coming from China,” a health ministry statement said.