All of us are ready with a wishlist of things we’re going to do once this pandemic fizzles out. And apart from going on a vacation, we all have one thing on lists: visiting our favourite restaurants and digging into the delicacies we’ve been craving for months.
Although in India, only takeaways and home deliveries are allowed, many coffee houses and restaurants are allowing patrons to dine-in as long as social distancing is maintained.
Now this makes us wonder that while covid-19 still prevails, is it really safe to eat in a restaurant right now? Well, to answer this pertinent question, we got in touch with Dr Manjusha Agarwal, consultant internal medicine at Global Hospital, Mumbai–and this is what she has to say.
Food is not the problem but distance is
“Right now, it is not a good time to hop out into a diner and eat. We must not invite any trouble. Cooked food is not the problem as SARS-CoV-2 virus doesn’t survive in cooked food. But the main problem is social distancing.”
We can’t keep our masks on and eat right? So, we have to remove them and this makes us all the more vulnerable to covid-19 virus.
Here are the five risks of visiting a restaurant amid the covid-19 pandemic:
1. Everyone is touching everything
In your home, you know everything about everyone and still adhere to the strictest of sanitization standards. But in a commercial space, can you really trust the restaurant authority to follow the rule book to the T? And if they falter, then who do you think has to pay the price?
“There are so many servers in a restaurant and who touches what is a big question. From the menu card, cutlery, chair, and table to the napkins you are using, someone must have touched them. And there is no surety whether that person is a covid-19 carrier or not,” she says.
2. Close proximity with strangers
“This is common sense that if a server comes to take your order s/he can’t stand way too far. Also, other people are going to be there and we have already learnt in a recent report that at times even 6-feet distance isn’t enough for social distancing. Then how can we be so sure that this 6-feet rule is also fool proof?”, she says.
3. Air conditioners are another culprit
In most of places, air-conditioners or blowers help with air circulations. A few weeks ago, researchers at the Guangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China) claimed in a study that the air conditioning of a restaurant was the reason for the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus between families dining there.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, when coronavirus gets suspended in droplets smaller than five micrometers, known as aerosols, it can stay suspended in the air for about a half-hour–which increases the risk in a closed environment circulating the same air.
4. The person whom you came in contact with might be asymptomatic
“You never know whether the people with whom you are getting in touch are covid-19 carriers or not, as they can be asymptomatic which again put you in a spot”, Dr Agarwal warns.
5 Whether all the norms are followed or not is another question
“Let’s be honest. Even under normal circumstances, we resist to eat out due to hygiene issues. And now when we are in a pandemic situation how can we be 100% sure that the restaurant owner is going to follow all the norms like checking the temperature of the staff or sanitizing the place every now and then?”, she says.
“This is an illness we don’t know much about and that’s why we have to keep guards on. So, a little more patience is required from your side,” concludes Dr Agarwal.