Video has emerged of Saudi Arabia’s highest monarch appearing to bat a woman’s face away as she attempts to lean in and kiss his hand.
In the footage, believed to have been taken over the weekend, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is conducting a meet and greet at the palace.
A string of men approach and the royal shakes their hands with no fuss but when it is the woman’s turn, she makes an unexpected move.
As she takes his hand she leans forward in a bid to kiss it, causing King Abdulaziz to recoil in shock.
He snatches his hand back and appears to use it to bat away her face to avoid the unwanted gesture, his eyes widening in alarm.
The king then appears to chastise the woman, shaking his head as he speaks to her.
The encounter seems to have left a bad taste in his mouth and he refuses to meet anybody else, walking away with his entourage.
While there have been no confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia, SARS-CoV-2 has infected hundreds of people in several Middle Eastern countries including the UAE, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, where there are almost a thousand confirmed cases and 54 deaths.
Saudi king refuses to have his hand kissed bc of coronavirus pic.twitter.com/kJFIMG7tmx
— Pardes Seleh (@PardesSeleh) March 1, 2020
“Lol, he’s smarter than the pope,” tweeted Kelly Campagna in response to the video, which has been viewed thousands of times.
She was referring to rumours Pope Francis contracted the coronavirus while supporting victims of the disease and their relatives recently.
On Sunday the 83-year-old pontiff said he would not be taking part in a planned six-day spiritual retreat south of Rome after coming down with a “cold”.
He suffered two coughing spells that forced him to turn away from the crowd and cover his mouth with his fist on a windy and cloudy day on Saint Peter’s Square.
“Unfortunately, a cold forced me not to take part this year,” he said after reciting the traditional Angelus Prayer and addressing the unfolding migrant crisis on Turkey’s border with Greece.
The annual retreat will still start Sunday but only include members of the Roman Curia administration team of the Holy See.
Italy is battling Europe’s worst outbreak of the novel coronavirus that has spread from China to every continent except for Antarctica.
The number of cases in Italy have exceeded 1600 and the toll continues to mount, with
34 confirmed deaths and scores of others receiving intensive care treatment in hospital in three adjacent northern regions near Milan.
The Vatican quickly shot down speculation that the pope himself had come down with COVID-19.
“There is no evidence to suggest a diagnosis of anything other than a slight ailment,” a Vatican spokesman told AFP on Sunday.
The pope himself looked relatively strong on Sunday despite the coughing fits.
He smiled a few times and addressed a range of theological issues before turning his attention to the plight of thousands of migrants from Turkey who have been blocked at the rugged frontier with Greece.
“I am a little saddened by the news coming from many displaced people, so many men, women and children chased because of war,” Francis said.
The pontiff asked the faithful to share a prayer for “so many migrants who seek refuge in the world – and help”.
Concerns about the pope’s health have been mounting for days in a country where mass closures of public institutions and businesses due to the coronavirus are affecting the lives of millions.
He first looked like he might be sick on Wednesday and lightened his workload for the rest of the week.
The Vatican used the “mild ailment” term for the first time on Thursday to explain why the pope was spending his day around his Saint Martha’s guesthouse in the Vatican.
But he still continued celebrating the morning mass and receiving visitors even as football matches were being cancelled and businesses were telling their employees to work from home.
He met with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church head Sviatoslav Shevchuk on Saturday and spent almost 15 minutes speaking on Sunday from his Vatican window.
The Argentine-born pontiff has enjoyed a life of good health despite losing part of a lung as a young man and suffered from sciatica — a nerve condition that causes pain in his hip.
Yet he rarely cancels appointments and normally takes extra time to mingle with supporters and the faithful.