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Boris Johnson continues to press the flesh amid coronavirus outbreak

He said he will carry on using the greeting.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes the President of Malta, George Vella (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes the President of Malta, George Vella (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes the President of Malta, George Vella (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Boris Johnson showed no signs of letting the Covid-19 outbreak dissuade him from shaking hands, as he welcomed the Maltese president George Vella with a firm embrace on the steps of Number 10 and pressed the flesh with Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on This Morning.

Appearing on the ITV daytime show, the prime minister said he is still shaking hands with people he meets.

Schofield told him he kept his hands by his side to see what Mr Johnson would do but he replied: “I’ve been going around hospitals, as you can imagine, and I think I always shake hands. People make their own decisions.

“Washing your hands is the single most effective thing, rather than barring all human contact. My advice to everybody is wash your hands at all times.”

Later, Mr Johnson said it was “good to welcome my good friend George” as the pair chatted at the start of a bilateral meeting inside Downing Street.

The Prime Minister previously announced his determination to press ahead with the greeting, despite concerns around the world that touching hands could help spread the disease.

As of Thursday morning, Malta had no reported cases of coronavirus, although nearby Italy is the epicentre of Europe’s outbreak, where at least 100 people have died and more than 3,000 have the Covid-19 illness.

President of Malta at Downing Street
Prime Minister Boris Johnson extends a hand to the President of Malta, George Vella (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Vella has been in the UK for a whistlestop visit, having met with the Queen on Wednesday evening.

On Tuesday, 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.”

PA