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Restaurants and Covid-19 - dining out during a pandemic

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When the president announced the long-awaited shift down to level 2 of the lockdown, some people celebrated because the tobacco sales ban was finally lifted while others started gearing up to visit their favourite restaurants again.

But it’s not that simple, the new normal applies to the hospitality and restaurant industry as well, albeit on a less restrictive level.

That may become a problem though.

The reality is that once you get to the restaurant, you’ll need to take your mask off which will leave your respiratory system exposed.

That is unless you take the necessary steps to prevent it. Before we get into how you can protect yourself while dining out, let’s assess the different levels of risk each type of dining experience exposes us to.

As you may know by now, the more you interact with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of contracting Covid-19.

The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in a restaurant or bar setting as follows:

Lowest Risk: Food services limited to drive-through services, home delivery, and order and collect.

Low to mid-level Risk: On-site dining limited to outdoor seating. Reduced seating capacity to allow adequate spacing between tables.

Mid to high Risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating options. Seating capacity is reduced to allow for proper spacing between tables.

Highest Risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity not reduced, and tables not spaced to allow for proper social distancing

Here’s what you can do to stay safe in a restaurant and enjoy your meal at the same time.

Before you leave the house -

  • Phone ahead or visit the restaurant’s website and social media pages to see if they have updated their opening hours and outline what their safety precautions are. i.e. the number of people allowed in the building at a time.
  • Make sure that employees follow proper handwashing protocol (e.g. before, during, and after preparing food; after touching garbage).
  • Take only what you need – money, your cell phone (optional), hand sanitizer, and your face mask.

At the restaurant

  • Wear your mask when you’re less than 1,5m away from other people and when you’re not eating or drinking anything.
  • Maintain a social distance of 1,5m or more from any entryway, hallway, or waiting area.
  • Whenever possible, sit outside at tables spaced far enough apart from other people.
  • While Covid-19 isn’t known to be transmitted through food, hard surfaces, utensils, menus, salt and pepper shakers, condiments, door handles, tables etc. remain a risk as they can be contaminated by droplets. 
  • Avoid touching your face or eating until you’ve either washed your hands or cleaned them with hand sanitizer.

Read also: Can Covid-19 can spread through food? Find out here

Is delivery safer than dining out?

The CDC says that delivery is still the safest option when ordering restaurant food. Social distancing still applies though - the person delivering the food as well as the person receiving the food needs to follow the necessary safe hygiene and social distancing practices when receiving the delivery.

The bottom line –

Covid-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection.

With that in mind, we all rely on each other to follow the necessary precautions and limit the spread of Covid-19.

This can only be done by being responsible and taking the necessary precautions to stay safe and virus-free.

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