How safe are pubs and restaurants?

Published On: December 5, 2020 09:10 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Restaurant and café businesses have started to pick up as the number of visitors increase 

KATHMANDU, Dec 5: After the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in March, restaurants and pubs were also shut down. Even after the lockdown was lifted in August, the government imposed a restriction on restaurants and pubs in view of possible outbreaks from the eateries.

But after almost nine months of the pandemic, some restaurants and pubs in Kathmandu have resumed their operations with fewer number of guests. The big question still is: How safe are the eateries? 

When Republica visited Durbarmarg, Jhamsikhel and Thamel, restaurants and pubs were open, and the number of visitors in the eateries was overwhelming. It looked like there was no COVID-19 outbreak in the city.

According to the Restaurant and Bar Association of Nepal (REBAN), the restaurants and cafés have been following all the safety protocols set by the Ministry of Health and Population to contain the spread of COVID-19 from eateries.

“The restaurants and cafés are not operating in full capacity. They are safer than the regular market as eateries follow the safety protocols set by the government,” said Arniko Rajbhandari, chairperson of REBAN.

“The restaurants and cafés are performing PCR tests of their staffers. Likewise, workers are mandated to wear masks. The places are fully sanitized, and if a staff gets COVID-19-like symptoms, the person is immediately sent for a PCR test,” said Rajbhandari, who also owns ND’s Fast Food in Mahabouddha.

Although restaurants were on the brink of collapse after the lockdown, we opened the business with a limited number of guests for survival, added Rajbhandari. “We have not compromised on safety, though the number of visitors has been limited,” he said.

As per the guideline set by the Nepal Tourism Board, restaurants, breakfast, and dining room and bar staff should perform personal hygiene like regular hand washing and respiratory hygiene frequently. Likewise, guests are required to disinfect their hands with disinfectant gel, preferably located at the entrance to those facilities.

“Restaurants have not compromised on the safety protocol. But the government has only allowed them to operate till 10PM. Why should the government ban the operation after 10 when eateries have been following all the health protocols?” Rajbhandari questioned, adding the seat arrangements, kitchen and dining space are set as per the guideline set by the government.

As per the guideline, tables should be arranged in such a way that the distance from the back of one chair to the back of another chair should be more than one meters.

Despite the arrangements, customers do not follow the protocol. “They come in groups, and want to sit together, breaching the protocol. When the restaurant reminds them about the pandemic, they get angry. Even though eateries have followed health protocol, some customers pose a threat for everyone,” he said.

According to Trisara Restaurant in Durbarmarg, it is operating the eatery to only 60 percent capacity. “Body temperature of all the customers is checked while entering the restaurant. Likewise, hand sanitizer is provided to the guest. No one is allowed to enter the restaurant without wearing a mask,” according to Bishnu Gaire, manager at the restaurant.

“The restaurant staff always wear masks, and sanitize before serving the guests,” said Gaire, and complained about customers who do not follow the health protocol inside the restaurant.

“If restaurants and cafés are following proper safety measures, visitors are not exposed to the risk of COVID-19. But customers also need to follow the instruction. If all the safety protocols are followed, it is safe to visit eateries,” a medical professional of Bir Hospital, who was in ND’s restaurant to grab a quick lunch, told Republica.

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