Eva Simpson: Being hands-off is better than being another statistic

Every day, and seemingly every hour, my WhatsApp alert pings with yet more coronavirus-related news, fake news, memes, cures, potions, preventions and concern from family abroad who somehow think Britain is under siege.

We’re clearly in the grip of something serious – NHS England has declared it a level-four incident, the top level of emergency and the Queen’s wearing gloves to hand out gongs.

And yet, despite all this and repeated warnings that we need to wash our hands a zillion times a day, I still see people acting as if we weren’t on the verge of a global epidemic.

I’ve watched with horror as people everywhere sneeze, cough and splutter into their hands and then casually proceed to touch everything in sight. I’ve seen, sorry to be gross, nose picking, finger licking, eyeball rubbing, all taking place with abandon.

The final straw for me was when a diner in a high-street sandwich shop spread their cold and lurgy all over a customer newspaper and then put it back on the rack. Eew.

It was then I decided I need to take the drastic step of no longer shaking hands with anyone who isn’t my child until this whole thing has blown over. And I think the Department of Health should be urging the public to do the same.

It hasn’t been easy and I’ve had to build up my resistance to hands being thrust at me at every turn. At church on Sunday I couldn’t bring myself to spurn fellow parishioners during the sign of peace.

By the time Tuesday ­evening’s parent teacher evening rolled around I was far braver. I don’t mean it to sound rude, but the thought of shaking hands with around a dozen people who in turn had already shaken hands with dozens more parents was too much to bear.

Did I get some funny ­reactions? You bet. One teacher witheringly said, “you’re funny” and not in a good way as I splashed on the hand sanitiser for good measure. Some seemed genuinely offended. In the end it was easier to say I had a cold, rather than explain I was trying to do my bit to stop coronavirus spreading.

My teen told me off for being rude and embarrassing. But what’s embarrassing about prioritising my health over someone else’s hurt feelings?

It reminds me of the scene in the thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when the villain tells a trussed-up Daniel Craig who’s he’s about to torture: “It’s hard to believe fear of offending is stronger than the fear of pain”. Craig had ended up in a dungeon out of politeness even though he knew something was wrong.

I’m not about to make that mistake.

So please don’t be offended I don’t reciprocate when you extend your hand. I’m not being rude. I just have
an acute case of hypochondria. Last time I checked, there was no cure for that either.

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