The Health Ministry on June 4 issued a list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for malls, restaurants, hotels and places of religious worship under its phased unlock plan.
The notice laid down mandatory guidelines that all such establishments will have to follow to operate, only if they are located in a containment zone.
The Centre has finally allowed restaurants to open from June 8, which is among the sectors worst-hit by the coronavirus-induced lockdown. However, a luncheon or dining-in will not feel the same, at least not now.
Who will be allowed inside a restaurant?
All asymptomatic persons wearing face covers will be allowed to enter restaurants. However, those aged above 65 years or having co-morbidities should still avoid public places as they run the maximum risk of contracting COVID-19. Pregnant women and children aged below 10 years have also been advised to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
How will entry and exit of patrons be managed to ensure maximum safety?
All restaurant entrances will have to make provisions for mandatory hand hygiene by keeping a sanitizer dispenser ready. They will also have to display COVID-19 preventive measures on a board or by hanging posters/standees/AV media.
Thermal screening will be mandatory for all. Only asymptomatic staff and patrons will be allowed. All persons entering the eatery will have to use face covers or face masks. Maximum staggering of patrons is advisable.
In case, elevators need to be used, social distancing will have to be strictly followed there as well with a cap on the number of people using it at a time. In the case of escalators, ideally, one person should be allowed on alternate steps.
Will valet parking be allowed?
Yes, valet parking has been allowed by the Centre. However, the operating staff must wear proper face covers and gloves. The steering of the car, the door handles, keys and everything else that is touched must be properly disinfected.
What if there is a queue?
In case there is a queue outside the restaurant, a separate arrangement or waiting area should be designated. Social distancing of a minimum of six feet must be followed there too, and there should be a staff present there at all times to ensure no one flouts the rules.
If such seating provisions are not available within the premises, the restaurant authority must make specific markings for each patron to ensure there’s proper social distancing.
Separate entry and exit points for patrons is also advisable.
Will seating arrangements inside restaurants change?
Yes, the distance between two tables may be increased to ensure proper social distancing. Meanwhile, all restaurants will be allowed to operate only at 50 percent of their seating capacity and take-aways will continue to be encouraged over dine-ins.
All the tables will be sanitised each time a customer leaves. The kitchen area must also be sanitised at regular intervals.
Checking the food menu and clearing payments require physical contact. Is it safe?
Keeping in mind the safety of the restaurant staff and the patrons, the Centre has advised all eateries to make food menus available on digital platforms as well as make all payments digital and contact-less. Disposable food menus would also suffice.
However, at all times, diners will be advised to sanitise their hands before touching their food.
Use of cloth napkins will be discouraged for the time being and disposable paper napkins should be provided by the restaurants.
Will it be safe to use restaurant washrooms?Yes, it will be safe, as the Centre has mandated effective and frequent sanitation of the restaurant premises. All frequently touched surfaces, including inside lavatories, will be cleaned and disinfected using one percent sodium hypochlorite solution regularly. That apart, all washrooms will be deep cleaned at regular intervals.