Singapore — With the start of phase 2 of the relaxation of circuit breaker measures on Friday (June 19), dine-in restaurants are open to customers once again.
However, despite safety measures in place, like having to wear masks and allowing only a maximum number of 5 guests per group, this “new normal” as many are calling it, still comes with heavy responsibility.
An article on CNA shared some tips from health experts to help people not only enjoy a meal out but to do it safely.
Tip 1: Arriving at the Restaurant and Settling In
One major fear of some restaurant patrons is that their favourite establishments are not clean enough. According to the Medical Director of Parkway Shenton, Dr Edwin Chng, these types of transmissions are “likely a potential source of infection only in settings where there is heavy viral contamination, such as in an infected individual’s household or in healthcare settings”.
The Director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology at the Singapore General Hospital, Dr Ling Moi Lin, shared: “The risk is very low as there is no wide community transmission at the moment.” Add to that the fact that establishments have put in place zealous methods for cleaning and disinfecting methods.
A doctor who practises at the DTAP Clinic Somerset, Dr Muhd Taufiq Rashid, said: “The more people sit, the more likely the virus will not stay”, as the action of sitting and standing can help remove the virus.
The cna.com article also gave some thoughts from food safety expert and lead chemist for Ecolab Southeast Asia, Mr Anthony Herrera, who referred to the clothes people wear: “There is no evidence to support transmission of Covid-19 through linens.”
Tip 2: Ordering A Meal
One of the worries of a number of restaurant-goers is about all the shared items in a restaurant, from the tables and chairs to the salt and pepper shakers and, probably the worse item of all, the menu or iPad used to place an order. Although all restaurants are required to take safety protocols to the highest degree of cleanliness, there are still some things that can be done to make it an even safer experience.
Dr Muhd Taufiq suggests that customers use tissue or napkins to hold the menu or the iPad, or “you may also ask the waiter to take your order instead”.
Dr Chng, on the other hand, proposed that you use alcohol or wipes on the menu or iPad, then on your hands afterwards. Dr Lin shared: “You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60 per cent alcohol, or disinfectant wipes to keep your hands clean.”
The report also explained that a lot of food establishments are planning to go contactless — providing QR codes per table for customers to scan — making it even safer to dine-in.
Tip 3: Enjoying Your Meal
Now that you’ve made it to your table and ordered your meal, all while wearing a mask of course, what happens when it actually comes to time to eat? Obviously you’ll have no choice but to take off your mask and put it somewhere safe so you can enjoy your meal, like on a clean tissue on the table. You can also put it inside your bag if you have a resealable bag you can use.
Again, Dr Lin reiterates that you should always clean your hands before eating or drinking anything. This should also be the rule when it comes time to put your mask back on later, “as you would have touched the external surface of the mask, which is likely to be contaminated with germs”. And according to Dr Muhd Taufiq: “Or, if you can, change to a new mask after the meal.”
While some restaurants are providing contactless ordering and paying options, there are those which are thinking of providing paper bags for customers’ masks. Dr Lin repeated though that masks must be worn at all times except when you’re about to eat or drink. “It is also a good practice to put it on while talking,” he said.
Tip 4: Having To Cough
Let’s face it, there may be times that you will have to cough due to something spicy or possibly something else. Dr Lin suggested: “It is a good practice to turn your head away and cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose the tissue after use, and clean your hands before moving off to another activity.”
Tip 5: Using the Bathroom
Using the bathroom in a public place is one thing that has managed to give much anxiety since the start of the pandemic. But unfortunately, unless you stay home all day, or have a really big bladder, you won’t have a choice. Your best defence is making sure that you are aware and careful at all times. Dr Muhd Taufiq said: “I would suggest using a piece of tissue or toilet paper to open the door. This avoids direct contact between the door and our hands.”
Moreover, if you are conscious about waste, Dr Ling suggest that you use the same towel or tissue you use to dry your hands to also hold the door handle on your way out. And to be doubly careful, Mr Herrera suggested to use alcohol or an alcohol-based sanitiser on your hands when you get back to the table as well.
Tip 6: Paying Your Bill
While there are many options for paying bills, there are also risks. Bills tend to pass through many hands, and one may have to tap in a pin number on a Nets machine, or use the same pen to sign a credit card slip. Dr Muhd Taufiq warned: “There’s a possible risk of transmitting the virus as there is contact between surfaces touched by different people.”
It is best to choose an establishment that already has contactless options. “Best to check for contactless payment options prior to choosing your dining establishment. This way, you can avoid or minimise touching objects touched by others,” he added.
If you choose to use a credit card or touch a pen to sign a slip, be very careful not to touch your face afterwards. Better yet, Dr Chng said, “bring your own pen in case your signature is required”. Again, always wash your hands or use a sanitiser after exiting the restaurant or food establishment.
Although it seems like there are numerous tips and things to remember when eating out, hopefully, the meal you enjoy either alone or with others will be worth all the trouble. /TISG