Coronavirus: Don't hug or kiss is expert's Valentine's Day advice to prevent spread of deadly illness
Adhere to a bit of 'British standoffishness', says John Oxford, an emeritus professor of virology at Queen Mary University
As Valentine's Day fast approaches, a scientist has warned that people should avoid hugging and kissing to halt the potential spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 45,000 worldwide and killed over a thousand in China.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today program, John Oxford, an emeritus professor of virology at Queen Mary University, said people could protect themselves from the virus, now officially known as the SARS-CoV-2, by adhering to a bit of "British standoffishness."
"I think we have to galvanize ourselves in our social actions – how we interact with people I think that is extremely important; more so than wearing a mask," he said. "I think that's a total diversion."
"What we need to do is less of the handshaking, hugging, kissing, that sort of thing, because this virus looks like its spread by ordinary tidal breathing, not necessarily colds and coughing," he added.
The SARS-CoV-2 is known to spread via droplets in someone's breath, which can happen during a cough or a sneeze or even normal breathing. MEAWW also previously reported that experts suspected the virus could survive on inanimate objects for up to nine days and stay contagious.
"In hospitals, these can be door handles, for example, but also call buttons, bedside tables, bed frames and other objects in the direct vicinity of patients, which are often made of metal or plastic," said Professor Günter Kampf from the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at the Greifswald University Hospital.
Oxford described the SARS-CoV-2 as a "social virus" and as "little people" with weaknesses, and dismissed the common provision of people wearing masks as a "total diversion."
"I think this virus has a weakness; it loves us to be close together," he said. "It’s a social virus; it rather hates it in England compared to China, I would think because we’re so stand-offish. We have to govern ourselves in our social actions, how we interact with people, and I think that’s extremely important."
More than 99% of the 45,000-odd reported cases have emerged from mainland China, with the UK so far having eight, though some fear that number could be higher.
Neil Ferguson, director of MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, told the Telegraph there was a possibility they were not picking up all those infected with the virus. "I think we’re in the early phases of a global pandemic at the moment. The fact we’ve only reported eight cases in this country is just because again our surveillance is focused on travelers," he said. "We think probably we’re picking up maybe one in three cases coming into the country at the current time." "If it truly establishes itself in terms of true person to person transmission it will behave like a flu pandemic may be up to 60 percent of the population being affected."