MAY 1 — With the new proposed relaxation of the MCO, there must be some new norms to be observed when dining/buying food from a restaurant. These ideas may seem very obsessive/compulsive.

However, if we are to beat this virus, we need to ensure that we are game with the methods to avoid a spread.

Generally

  1. Queuing in restaurants either for seating/food selection/bill paying must observe strict social distancing-markings on the floors with simple plasters will suffice
  2. All workers attending to customers (food or attendants) must be gloved and masked. Customers to be masked before entering
  3. Hand sanitisers to be made available to customers upon arrival- just a worker providing a dash of it to the customer from the bottle will suffice. The worker should also check for temperature upon arrival.
  4. Customers who are unwell are strictly advised to not come to the shop. If they are alone (no other person to care for them) they can always call-in and pre-order/order via app. If not possible, the customer is advised to come in, order and wait in their vehicles/designated area. If they present at the restaurant unwell, they will only be allowed to pack their food.
  5. No sharing of food and drinks among customers — this will require the customers to be vigilant and cooperative (done on their own accord). Drinks served should be in different coloured glasses/cups/straws so that each customer will be able to recognise their own drinks/avoid mixing.
  6. As much as possible, try paying/accepting e-wallet payment as there will be no handling of monies (potential fomites). This includes all form of monetary collection — food, parking etc. We must do away with punch-in(key-in) parking coupon systems (via machines) and we must resort to e-wallet systems/scratch coupons/payment card scanning (contactless).
  7. Toilets must be equipped with hand sanitisers — toilet attendant to provide a dash of hand sanitiser material upon entry and upon exiting toilets. Toilets to be cleaned regularly and not just once a day. This includes disinfecting common contact areas like doorknobs, taps, faucets etc.
  8. There must be a special bin to discard used/spoilt unwanted protective equipment like masks and gloves made available in the restaurants and toilets.

For dining in

  1. As far as possible — round table/dome should be avoided — simply because there is a higher chance for utensil to plate contact (plate to general utensil contact must be avoided at all times). Some of the ways to counter this is- to provide a transfer bowl for everyone — person scoops the food, puts it in a bowl and transfers to plate by tilting it. After each dish, there must be a change of bowls. This will require high cooperation and consideration of the customers. If not possible — simply avoid round table/dome — provide ala-carte only meals. For fluid material (soups, desserts like custard etc), the waiter can serve each individual.
  2. Personal food utensils — those that are used to eat — strictly stay on your plate. No using the same spoon to scoop food from the main serving plate or to serve others.
  3. All eating utensils provided must come with a small hot water bowl to soak the utensils — individualised so that there is no mixing — prior to starting a meal.
  4. Hand sanitisers to be available on the table and each customer is given a dash of it by the waiter before and after each dish.
  5. Seating between each individual must be spaced, thus having a cramped 10 to a table must not be an option.
  6. Suggest limiting the number of tables in each restaurant so that overcrowding can be curbed.
  7. All tables, chairs, baby-chairs to be sanitised with disinfectant after each usage (best done before and after usage). Floors of the restaurant to be cleaned at least 2-3 times a day with disinfectant.

For take-aways/economy rice style shops

  1. For food packing — all forms of spoon sharing — for scooping curries/dishes must not be allowed — each customer is to be given gloves to handle these items as they receive their packet of rice/plastic packets. This will ensure good hygiene especially with many hands coming into contact with one utensil. Once the food selection is done, they must discard the gloves (into appropriate bins), wash and sanitise their hands before eating.
  2. Fast food outlets where food comes in bulk — i.e. many pieces of chicken in one packing, there should be spatulas given by the outlets so that customers may use it when they are serving members at home/place of event. Again, the question of using one’s hands to eat and then scooping an additional helping will be an issue- best to either opt for utensils (cleaned and cleansed (as recommended in point 2&3 in the dine-in list) or better yet to wash hands and sanitise before opting to add food.

These steps, again, seem a little out there, but we need to comply with them to ensure that we win this battle.

* Dr Arvinder-Singh HS is a medical officer with a Masters in Health Research and is currently pursuing a PhD in Community Health focusing on adolescent athletes.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.