"Swine flu has put an end to a beloved French custom, at least for now," said Sherryl Connelly in the New York Daily News. The French health ministry has issued a warning that the air kiss, or "la bise," could spread the swine flu, or H1N1 virus. The "bise ban" got its start when the mayor of the town of Guilvenec in Brittany told school teachers and students to drop the traditional greeting.
The kissing ban has not become a national law, yet, said Henry Samuel in Britain's Daily Telegraph, but big companies such as insurer AXA have told workers to abandon the bise and the handshake, and some offices are even demanding a one-yard person-to-person buffer zone. And an outright national ban could be one of the emergency measures France takes in the winter flu season to fight a possible H1N1 pandemic.
With what shall we replace the kiss on the cheek and the handshake? asked Sandrine Blanchard in France's Le Monde. A slap on the back? If that's the way you go, be gentle. If you slap too hard you might make your friend cough or spit—and that's been banned, too.