Scientists warn against ditching social distancing over holidays

A Leger poll suggests 45 per cent of Canadians and 50 per cent of Americans are on board with hugging, kissing and shaking hands over the holidays. Getty Images, File

Scientists are cautioning against abandoning social distancing this holiday season as new polling finds almost half of Canadians plan on ditching some of the fundamentals.

A Leger poll suggests 45 per cent of Canadians and 50 per cent of Americans are on board with hugging, kissing and shaking hands in the coming weeks.

However, that would only give the virus that causes COVID-19 more opportunities to spread, Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr told Global News this week.

“We absolutely should not be throwing any of our layers of protection out the window,” Carr said. “The increase in cases, even in spite of vaccination … around the world in well-vaccinated countries — whether it be Canada, whether it be in countries in Europe — (is) not at all surprising, because what we’ve done is we’ve gotten rid of a lot of the strict social distancing measures.

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“We’re going into the colder weather, the indoor weather where we’re back in that enhanced risk,” she said, adding that there’s an enhanced risk if you’re surrounded by a higher proportion of unvaccinated people. “There’s more people together indoors in re-circulated air, so now is not the time at all to be giving up those layers of protection.”

Microbiologist Jason Tetro, or The Germ Guy as he’s known, wasn’t a fan of handshaking even before COVID-19 came around, opting for elbow and fist-bumping instead.

The risk of catching something via bodily fluid transfer by touching someone’s hands runs up to 90 minutes if there’s moisture, Tetro said.

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“We touch our faces about 16 times every hour, even inadvertently. We don’t even notice we’re doing it,” Tetro told 680 CJOB this week.

“If you are absolutely and fully confident about your hands, then go ahead and put them out there to shake, but are you fully confident in the other person?” he said. “Can you be absolutely sure that person didn’t pick their nose just before they said, ‘Hey, how’s it going?'”

Tetro chooses to use “namaste” with his hands pressed together as a way to greet someone respectfully, he said.

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— with files from Brittany Greenslade and Joe Scarpelli

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