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As Valentine’s Day approaches, one of Britain’s leading virologists has warned people to stop hugging or kissing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Stock image

As Valentine’s Day approaches, one of Britain’s leading virologists has warned people to stop hugging or kissing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Stock image

Getty Images

As Valentine’s Day approaches, one of Britain’s leading virologists has warned people to stop hugging or kissing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Stock image

As Valentine's Day approaches, a leading virologists has warned people to stop hugging or kissing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Prof John Oxford, of Queen Mary University in London, said he hoped "British stand-offishness" could protect the nation from the deadly bug.

Describing coronavirus as a "social virus", he said: "It rather hates it in Britain, compared to China, because we are so stand-offish."

The World Health Organisation has warned that a vaccine is unlikely to be ready for 18 months. Prof Oxford suggested that, in the meantime, people should keep themselves to themselves.

"I think we have to galvanise ourselves in our social actions, how we interact with people, I think that is extremely important; more so than wearing a mask. I think that's a total diversion," he said.

"What we need to do is less handshaking, hugging, kissing, that sort of thing, because this virus looks like it is spread by ordinary tidal breathing, not necessarily colds and coughing."

The virus has killed more than 1,100 people out of the 45,000 cases that have been diagnosed across the world.

Prof Neil Ferguson, a mathematical biologist at Imperial College, warned that the world was "in the early phases of a global pandemic".

He said that reducing physical contact between people might slow the virus's spread but was highly unlikely to stop transmission.

Meanwhile, organisers of the world's biggest mobile technology fair are pulling the plug over worries about the viral outbreak from China. The annual Mobile World Congress show will no longer be held as planned in Barcelona, Spain, on February 24-27.

"Global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event," John Hoffman, head of the GSMA organising body, said yesterday.

The decision comes after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out, with the latest cancellations by Nokia, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and BT.

Irish Independent


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