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The elbow bump has been widely used across the world
The elbow bump has been widely used across the world

Humans have been greeting each others with handshakes for thousands of years. Are we witnessing the end to pressing the flesh, and giving some skin? "I don't think we should shake hands ever again," declared Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the key members of the US coronavirus task force, in a Wall Street Journal podcast.

So is we must shelve the shake, what should we do when we greet a friend, a colleague or family member? From reviving old traditions to inventing new ways of greetings, alternatives to handshakes are showing up around the world:

  • In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has encouraged citizens not to use handshakes, hugs or hongi (a traditional noses-pressed Maori greeting) but to perform instead the "east coast wave", even demonstrating it during a press conference, reports The New Zealand Herald. Also known as the "Kahungunu wave" as it is common in Ngāti Kahungunu Maori iwi (tribe), it consists of raising the eyebrows while looking at someone in the eyes, with a subtle upward movement of the head.

  • In China, a traditional gesture called "zuoyi", bowing with hands folded in front, has made a public comeback in the eastern city of Quzhou. Officials were asked to use this gesture during local plenary sessions, as well as students in 117 schools, The Global Times reports. This formal custom dates back from China's imperial era thousands of years ago. The country also popularized the "Wuhan shake," or how to say hello with your feet, after an online video went viral.

  • In many countries, a handshake is also a means to seal a business deal. That is how traders traditionally operate in Garissa County, Kenya, when they sell animals in livestock markets. But Kenyan health officials are now giving them a safer option that doesn't require physical contact: a "stick-shake". The Ministry of Health has published a picture of a health worker demonstrating how to use sticks as a substitute for the traditional handshake at a goat market.

No handshake, use shaka instead — Photo: Brian Schatz

  • The elbow bump has been widely used across the world and seems to be favored especially by politicians (who are famous hand shakers...or "flesh pressers' as we say in English) , from state officials in Indonesia to European health ministers. Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even dubbed it the "corona shake".
  • Hawaiians are used to hugs, kisses or "honi", with foreheads touching. But officials like Hawaii US Senator Brian Schatz have been urging citizens to use the "shaka" to help prevent the virus from spreading, reports local news channel KITV. The gesture, which consists in curling the three middle fingers and extending the thumb and pinky finger, is a symbol of friendship and compassion in the Hawaiian culture and was widely popularized by surfers.
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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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