Opinion: Al fresco

Around the world, restaurant openings are being disrupted due to the spread of COVID-19. The hospitality industry is struggling, and restaurateurs are keen to get back to work. Meanwhile, everyone is eager to get out and socialise once again.

In short, we are over it!!

But we are still cautious. Whilst we want to go out, it is safer to stay home. Social distancing sometimes gets forgotten. And restaurants are hotspots. The very nature of dining out – large numbers of people, sitting together for an extended period, sharing food, talking and laughing – means we have to be careful to minimise COVID-19 transmission. This can be made worse when dining indoors, due to air circulation, air-conditioning and tight spaces.

This is why restaurants, cafés, pubs, etc., are required to have a COVID-19 safety plan, including a means of registering personal contact details of all guests for possible future track and tracing. NSW Health defines a “close contact” for possible COVID-19 transmission to be someone who has been face-to-face with a confirmed case for at least 15 minutes or in the same enclosed space for two hours or more while that person was infectious. This makes restaurants a risk.

The Victorian Government has recently revealed its roadmap for reopening, which includes “predominantly outdoor seated service” in Stage 3. This is because, when combined with proper social distancing, table spacing and sanitisation, being outdoors can help reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.

So al fresco dining is now in demand! Luckily, Australians love to eat outdoors – and our climate is generally conducive to al fresco dining. Most councils are agreeable to permitting street dining outside of cafés and restaurants. Indeed, in some places, the authorities are closing a lane of traffic to extend the pedestrian and dining areas, encouraging sidewalk cafés. Restaurants are popping up in gardens, with tables well-spaced between garden beds, trees and plants. Rooftops, courtyards, bowling greens and even carparks, are being turned into spacious al fresco dining – some with kitchens operating from shipping containers, caravans, and even boats. Open-air dining is now in vogue.

But remember, social distancing still applies. That is at least 1.5m between people, not just tables (see my article on Social Distancing, 1 August 2020 here).

Make sure you wash and sanitise your hands after touching surfaces. Make sure the restaurant has a COVID-19 safety plan. Make sure your (and others) details are registered so effective contact tracing can be done (this is in your interests). And if the restaurant is crowded, without proper physical distancing, go somewhere else.

And, of course, if you have flu-like symptoms, stay at home and seek medical advice.

Together we can all stay safe and dine another day.

By Jeremy Ryland

Image credit: Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

Please leave a reply