Photo Credit: AFP Source: Al Arabiya

Nose-to-nose greetings - aka eskimo kisses - have been part of Arab and Khaleeji traditions for centuries. Now, it looks like we're going to have to forgo them in our virus-hit planet. 

This week, the UAE became the first country in the region to issue a warning against nose rub greetings to help prevent the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus outbreakThe nation's Ministry of Health and Prevention also advised citizens to replace handshakes, hugs, and kisses with good old waves. 

Similar warnings are crucial in a region where most people are used to being touchy-feely as the new coronavirus and several other fatal viral illnesses spread through immediate contact with those infected. 

It's probably going to be difficult to convince people in the region of rejecting traditional warm greetings because, after all, Arabs are known for them. This is a region where people fight over whether they should give each other two kisses rather than three every time they meet. 

In some areas, people also share Arabic coffee cups and pass them on from one person to the other. 

It's traditions like these that ministries of health across the region are attempting to reverse as illnesses like the coronavirus spread around the globe via close contact.

Arab greetings help spread infections

Health experts around the region have always advised against the use of physical greetings especially when someone is sick with a cold or flu. 

Now that the world is on high alert due to the spread of the current coronavirus, they're amping up their warnings and asking the public to avoid intimate greetings altogether. 

Given the seriousness of the current version of the illness and the fact that the World Health Organization has declared it a medical health emergency, more people are bound to take this expert advice. 

So next time someone approaches you for a traditional Arab kiss, don't feel shy to blow them one before they get too close. 

The UAE has reported five cases of coronavirus so far

The UAE is the only country in the region to have confirmed cases of the virus at the time being. Early on Sunday, the Gulf nation said it was dealing with a fifth infected patient, a Chinese tourist who recently arrived from Wuhan.

On Wednesday, the country's Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) announced it had activated a "predictive electronic system to identify patients at high risk of contracting the novel coronavirus."

As the death toll reaches 563 in China, Gulf and Arab countries are taking measures to prevent the virus from spreading among its citizens.