President Donald Trump joked about greeting Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar during his visit to the White House on Thursday, amid the coronavirus pandemic that fueled wariness over physical interactions.
"Well, we didn't shake hands today," Trump said to reporters at the White House. "And we looked at each other, we said, 'What are we going to do? You know, it's sort of a weird feeling.'"
Prime Minister Varadkar, who was sitting beside Trump, replied by closing his hands together: "I think we went for this."
Trump added that he recently came back from his trip to India in late February, where he "didn't shake any hands."
"And it was very easy because they go like this," Trump said, as he clasped his hands together.
"And Japan goes like this," Trump added, bowing his head. "They were ahead of the curve, okay?"
Trump also described limiting his physical interactions with others as "a very strange feeling."
"You know, I was never a big hand shaker, as you probably heard," Trump said. "But once you become a politician, shaking hands is very normal."
—QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) March 12, 2020
Trump was pictured on Saturday with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is reportedly being monitored for the disease. Bolsonaro's communications chief, Fabio Wajngarten, was also pictured with Trump at the Mar-a-Lago during the visit, five days before he tested positive.
Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also self-quarantined themselves amid the coronavirus outbreak after a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) attendee tested positive in late February.
Trump's comments come as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned the public to limit touching the eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Other lawmakers have also changed the way they interact with their constituents.
"[It's] changing the way we do business. I had a fundraising breakfast this morning and didn't shake hands with anybody," Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said to The Hill. "Which I think is just common sense."
"Our office has bottles of Purell everywhere," said Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont also said, referring to the brand of hand sanitizer. "I just had a meeting with a group from Ireland — I waved to them."