Dutch PM breaks own coronavirus handshake rule

Elbow tap: handshakes have become taboo in the age of coronavirus (AFP Photo/Remko DE WAAL)

The Hague (AFP) - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was caught shaking hands on television just moments after telling the country to avoid the traditional greeting to halt the spread of coronavirus.

"We're not allowed to do that any more. Sorry sorry!" a laughing Rutte said at a televised press conference late Monday after he grabbed the hand of Jaap van Dissel, head of infectious disease control at the Dutch public health board.

"We'll do it again," added Rutte, before trying out the elbow-tap recommended to avoid transmission of the virus -- and then putting his arm around Dissel's shoulder to lead him offstage.

The Netherlands has reported 382 cases of coronavirus so far, including four deaths.

Rutte had earlier set out to the nation the new steps that public health authorities recommended to curb its spread.

"From now on, we will stop shaking hands," Rutte told the press conference.

"So you can greet each other with your feet, say hello with your elbow, or whatever you like. I've seen some great examples in schools. But from today we stop shaking hands."

More than 4,000 people have died from the virus and over 110,000 have been infected worldwide, the majority in China.