The prime minister and his partner, Carrie Symonds, were entering Monday’s Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey when Johnson leaned forward with his right hand to greet a clergy member.
Almost as soon as he offered his hand, Johnson hurriedly removed it, before holding up both his hands in mock horror as the man laughed.
It appears Johnson has gone back on his word regarding handshakes, having claimed on Tuesday last week that he’ll continue shaking people’s hands while out and about.
He had told reporters at a Downing Street press conference: “I am shaking hands. I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were coronavirus patients and I was shaking hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.
“People must make up their own minds but I think the scientific evidence is. Our judgment is that washing your hands is the crucial thing.”
On Thursday, appearing on ITV’s This Morning, Johnson tried to shake hands with Phillip Schofield only for the presenter to dodge it.
He was also pictured shaking hands on Friday as he arrived at the Welsh Conservative conference.
The NHS has not issued official coronavirus-related advice regarding handshakes, with the key advice remaining washing hands at regular intervals.
Even if Johnson has changed his mind about handshakes, his exchange in Westminster Abbey is another example of how difficult it can be for people to shake off habits such as handshakes and touching their faces.
This was demonstrated by a viral clip last week of Dr Sara Cody, director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, giving a speech about coronavirus in which she advised people against touching their mouth.
Seconds later, she licked her finger to turn a page in her notes.
Prince Charles appeared to pull out of a handshake as he arrived at the Commonwealth Day Service. The occasion is Harry and Meghan's final official engagement as senior royal https://t.co/6vBUBH7X9L pic.twitter.com/wllQjcdiZb— ITV News (@itvnews) March 9, 2020
On Monday, Prince Charles was also filmed withdrawing a handshake offer while attending the same service as Johnson.
As of 9am, there had been 319 coronavirus cases in the UK, from which four people have died. The figure had been 273 on Sunday.