March 03, 2020
There’s the rub as Covid 19 threatens hongi
The days of handshakes and hongi could be numbered because of the Covid 19 Coronavirus – but we're not there yet.
John Whaanga, the Health Ministry's deputy director-general for Māori health, says some Māori and iwi organisations are starting to talk about customary practices.
He says at the moment there is only one confirmed case in New Zealand and that person is in isolation, so the normal public health messages are going out – wash your hands regularly, stay home if you feel sick, phone Healthline if you feel really concerned about your symptoms.
Covid 19 is spread through droplets, so if it does take off here, there will be a need to take care with contact with faces, noses and hands.
"If we were going to have a change in practice it's not just about the hongi. In Australia, you now have people going around recommending they should stop the practice of shaking hands. So I'm quick to point it won't potentially have an impact just on some of our cultural practices but some of the practices that are much more general such as shaking hands, but we're not at that stage yet," Mr Whaanga says.
John Whaanga from the Ministry of Health.
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