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Amid COVID worries, fist bumps for Biden — with exceptions

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TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The White Home stated President Joe Biden would attempt to restrict bodily contact throughout his Center East journey due to concern about rising COVID-19 circumstances — however the president swiftly reverted to his old-school, back-slapping methods after landing in Israel on Wednesday.

He doled out just a few fist bumps after stepping off the aircraft however then threw an arm round Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and shook palms with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The problem of contact is arising amid intense hypothesis about Biden’s upcoming assembly with leaders in Saudi Arabia and whether or not he’ll shake palms with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who U.S. intelligence officers stated in all probability sanctioned the killing of a critic.

It remained to be seen how Biden would greet different Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders during his trip, which features a summit in Saudi Arabia of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

A new omicron variant, which is ready to extra simply evade immunity from vaccinations and former infections, has revived considerations about the specter of the pandemic.

“We’re attempting to attenuate contact as a lot as potential the place we are able to,” White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre informed reporters touring aboard Air Power One with the president.

However such precautions didn’t look like in place on Tuesday earlier than Biden left for the Center East, when he mingled and shook palms with members of Congress at a White Home picnic.

Biden is about to satisfy with Saudi King Salman and the crown prince when he flies to the dominion on Friday. The extremely anticipated assembly is being carefully scrutinized because the White Home seems to be to reset the U.S.-Saudi relationship after a rocky begin within the Biden presidency.

As a candidate, Biden had vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” nation for its human rights file. The president final 12 months additionally angered the Saudis by publicly releasing a U.S. intelligence report that decided that the crown prince, who is usually referred to by his initials MBS, possible authorized the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a fierce critic of the dominion’s management.

The Democratic president’s plan to satisfy MBS has been criticized by human rights activists who accuse Biden of backsliding on a vow to make human rights a central pillar of his international coverage.

Israeli media reported this week that the White Home had informed Lapid’s workplace that Biden would chorus from shaking palms throughout the go to as a result of surge in COVID-19 infections within the U.S. and Israel.

Jean-Pierre didn’t say whether or not such a message was conveyed to the Israelis.

Earlier than Biden travels overseas, White Home officers work with host nations to coordinate COVID-19 protocols, together with testing for anybody anticipated to return in shut contact with Biden. It’s not an ideal system, as Biden typically decides to greet folks in giant crowds that will not have been universally examined. Individually, everybody touring within the presidential entourage is required to be examined at the very least as soon as day by day, along with any host nation protocols.

The no-handshake steerage comes because the White Home has emphasised that COVID-19 shouldn’t disrupt day by day life as a result of availability of checks and therapeutics. Biden’s prior abroad journeys — together with a go to to Europe final fall throughout the surge in circumstances attributable to the delta variant — didn’t embody makes an attempt to curtail Biden’s handshakes.

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Madhani reported from Jerusalem. Related Press writers Zeke Miller and Chris Megerian in Washington to this report.