The custom of shaking hands should be ditched permanently and Britain should move to a Japanese-style greeting culture to avoid future pandemics, public health experts have suggested.
Baron Piot, a professor and microbiologist from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told peers at the science and technology select committee that individual behaviour needed to change for the benefit of the wider community.
He also suggested that face masks and social distancing could become the norm to prevent other respiratory diseases – such as colds and flu – and said there was emerging evidence in Australia that coronavirus measures had also prevented the spread of other communicable diseases.
"Shaking hands is probably out forever," he told peers. "Using face masks when you have a common cold should be the norm. Look at Australia – there has been a major decrease of incidence of influenza and all kinds of respiratory infections, most likely because of all the measures of social distancing.
"Many of the cultural behaviours in other countries may have been determined by the need to avoid epidemics, that might have been the origin of not shaking hands. We're talking about a long-term view."
The Government has signalled that face masks will be needed until the end of the year to keep coronavirus under control, but there is concern that the measure will dissuade people from visiting shops and going back to work.
Professor Dame Anne Johnson, the vice president of the Academy of Medical Science, said a cultural shift was needed to stop a second wave emerging in the winter and suggested that even people with colds or flu would need to stay at home.
"It's really important to suppress the virus as much as we can," she said. "If you've got a cold or flu stay home, stay out the way. Less shaking of hands, kissing and more of the Japanese approach.
"It requires a cultural change, and that's what we're going to see, and everyone can participate."
However, Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, a structural biologist and president of the Royal Society, said measures such as social distancing and face masks would only need to remain in place until a vaccine or reliable treatment for coronavirus was found.
"All of these measures need to be maintained till we see a way out of the pandemics until therapeutics emerge," he said.