Ghanaian international footballer, Christian Atsu and his Newcastle United’s teammates are banned from shaking hands at the training grounds amidst coronavirus fears.

“There’s a ritual here that everybody shakes hands with everybody as soon as we see each other every morning,” said Bruce as he prepared for Saturday’s game against Burnley at St James’ Park. “But we’ve stopped that on the advice of our club doctor. Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do. We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”

“In confined areas, like we’ve got here, you have to be careful,” said Bruce. “There was a time over Christmas when there was a virus knocking around here – not coronavirus – so we’re a bit mindful of the fact that a bug can sweep through. We had four or five [players] at Christmas and two of my staff [suffering from the virus], so you stay at home, basically. Stephen Clemence [the first-team coach] didn’t travel to Manchester United. But it’s always something you’re looking at.

When you’re in a small environment like we are, you have to guard against things like shaking hands. If someone has a bug or whatever they stay away, because otherwise it rapidly spreads.”

The handshake ban has not prevented Newcastle players from socialising, and this week they staged a barbecue to celebrate their Argentinian centre-half Federico Fernández’s 31st birthday. “The South Americans have meat rather than cake for birthdays,” said Bruce. “We’ve had that much steak it’s incredible but there’s a unique spirit among my players.”

Coronavirus has forced many football matches in Asia and some part of Europe to be postponed and others played behind closed doors