In light of the latest nationwide outbreak of gastroenteritis, the Public Health Agency of Canada has recommended against handshaking to reduce the spread of the bug. But apparently that’s just the first step. Canada’s New Government has once again leapt into action with almost every federal department and agency signing on.
Health Canada was first off the mark with its own in-house protection plan. All employees have been issued disposable latex gloves which they are required to wear during their shifts.
"We thought this was the surest way to prevent infection," said a Health Canada spokesman. "Even if people inadvertently end up shaking hands, no viral transmission will occur."
Health Canada employees will be encouraged to wear their government-issue gloves while off the job as well.
"Since 78% of all viral infections are transferred from the home, we think it just makes sense," said the departmental representative. "Our new slogan ‘Love means wearing a glove’ says it all."
The RCMP is gearing up for a cross-country offensive against unprotected handshaking. Although there are not yet any criminal sanctions for illicit or illegal handshakes, the Mounties are planning to stop Canadians who are practising unsafe greetings and issue them warnings.
"We thought about providing an information flyer as well," said the head of the RCMP’s new Anti-viral Mobile Unit. "But the cost of covering and sanitizing the handouts was prohibitive."
The Department of Justice has taken the lead from the RCMP and is in the initial stages of drafting an amendment to the Criminal Code that would see unauthorized seasonal handshaking punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. Provisions are being made for the payment of any fines imposed by credit card, debit card or automatic bank withdrawal to avoid the inevitable transmission of germs via paper currency.
"We hope to have the epidemic under control soon," said a Justice spokeswoman. "At which time we will introduce a registry of known handshakers, costing a maximum of $50 million."
Even the CBC has jumped on board with an offer to run new public service ads 24/7 to help educate the public. In-house producers have created an animated character called "Hammy the Hand" who will show viewers the best ways to avoid human contact and reduce viral spread. CBC brass are even considering making the ads available free of charge to Canada’s private broadcasters to ensure that at least some Canadians will actually see them.
Finally, the Prime Minister’s Office is taking steps to educate Canadians and change our social conventions when it comes to public greetings. Look for public demonstrations by the Prime Minister himself of the newly approved substitute greeting of a straight-arm salute at a 45 degree angle.
"It’s the right thing to do for the country," said Mr. Harper. "And when it comes to doing the right thing, there’s no party more right than ours."