Dine in or walk away? How to tell if a venue is COVID safe in NSW



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Lisa Bricknell, CQUniversity Australia

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian has called for more businesses to register as COVID Safe, as the state recorded 19 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours to 8pm Tuesday night. Berejiklian said:

If I walk into a venue and I’m not comfortable with how COVID safe that venue is, I’d leave. I expect patrons to do the same.

Good advice — and timely, too. As NSW Health’s Jeremy McAnulty said on Wednesday, NSW is “at a knife’s edge, a critical point”.

Here’s what to look for when you walk into a bar, cafe or restaurant to know if it’s COVID safe — and how to know when to walk out the door.




Read more:
How to stay safe in restaurants and cafes


What to look for

Familiarise yourself with the rules business must follow to register as a COVID Safe business in NSW. The rules are here.

Screenshot of the steps to become a COVID Safe business.
Steps to become a COVID Safe business, according to NSW Health.
NSW Health

Check to see the venue’s COVID Safe certificate is clearly displayed and that they are taking every patron’s contact details. If a patron is dining in, the venue must be recording their contact details or checking they are registered with the COVIDSafe app.

If they’re not recording people’s details in some way, leave. If a COVID-19 positive case visits that venue, contact tracers are unable to do their job unless all patrons’ details are recorded.

Check if tables are appropriately spaced and that cutlery, napkins, glasses, plates, bowls or straws aren’t left lying on tables — even if they are disposable. Nothing should be on the table for people to pick up (or in a tub for patrons to collect themselves). Cutlery and other utensils should be brought out by staff when your order is ready. The idea is to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 positive person handling your utensils.

Your table should be 1.5m away from other tables but I’d even be trying to keep 1.5m from friends at my own table. Personally, I’d also want to see my friends wearing masks (it’s different if you’re dining with people with whom you live). Even if you or your friend had a COVID-19 test yesterday and it came back negative, that doesn’t mean you’re negative today. You could have been infected in the past 12 hours.




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Watch what happens when a patron leaves. Are staff appropriately sanitising tables and chairs with spray and, ideally, disposable paper towel? They should be.

Look around to see if the venue provides hand sanitiser for patrons — and keep an eye on the staff to make sure they are using it too.

Staff, ideally, should be wearing masks, in my view. I know that’s not yet compulsory in many places, but masks provide a barrier if a staff member is unknowingly positive. It’s hard to make patrons wear masks, because they have to eat, but I’d be looking for the staff to be wearing them (all staff, not just a couple).

Check if the venue is enforcing contactless transactions to reduce the handling of money, cards and pin pads. I know the evidence about the role of surfaces in spreading this coronavirus is still emerging but we should stick to universal precautions — if something can be avoided, it should be.

Staff should be limiting the number of patrons at the venue, and the number of patrons allowed in the venue at any one time should be clearly displayed. If people are lining up outside, make sure they are being spaced out too.

In general, aim for an open-air setting if you can, such as a beer garden or an open-air cafe. The more fresh air flow you have around you, the more transmission risk is reduced. Any sort of indoor socialising, where air flow is limited, is inherently risky at the moment in NSW.

People sitting in a restaurant with coronavirus restrictions
Eating out? Check to see if staff are sanitising surfaces, wearing masks, using contactless payment, and spacing out customers.
Shutterstock

When to leave

Breaches of any of the above would be enough to make me want to leave. But here are some more triggers that would make me think, “I’m getting out of here.”

If you see staff or patrons with symptoms — they have a cough, or cold, or seem unwell — leave.

If they are not wiping surfaces or tables, or allowing patrons to come in and seat themselves, leave. Patrons should be shown to tables that have been sanitised.

If the place is starting to fill up and you sense physical distancing is not being observed — leave.

A critical point

NSW is at an especially critical point. I’d be very, very careful right now. If I was in a Sydney hotspot, I wouldn’t be going out to dinner at all.

NSW is doing a good job of putting out spot fires but any one of those spot fires can flare up if people aren’t taking precautions.

If you thinking of going out, and you are wondering if it is risky, then you are better off not doing it. If you feel you have to go, then mitigate your risk by moving the event outside or making sure everyone is distancing and wearing masks.

COVID-19 is a really serious disease that affects young and old. You can get sick or even die, even if you are young and healthy — and the evidence on long term effects is worrying. And of course, healthy people can pass it on to someone who is in a high risk category. It’s so important that everyone continues to observe the appropriate protocols — today. This week. This weekend.

Until COVID-19 either burns out globally or we get a vaccine — and neither of those are right on the horizon and may not happen at all — then this may become the new normal, sadly. Infection control measures remain our best chance of keeping the pandemic in check.The Conversation

Lisa Bricknell, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Giving your details to restaurants and cafes: your rights, their obligations and privacy concerns



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Mahmoud Elkhodr, CQUniversity Australia

While lockdown restrictions have eased in many places, the coronavirus threat isn’t over yet. The number of cases globally has surpassed 9 million, and infections have slowly crept back for Victoria.




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Restaurants, pubs and cafes have been among the first places to which people have flocked for some respite from social isolation. In many cases, diners must provide their personal details to these venues for potential contact tracing later on.

Unfortunately, there’s a lack of clarity regarding what the best options are for businesses, and many aren’t following official guidelines.

Keeping records

In the rush to reopen while also abiding by government requirements, many businesses are resorting to collecting customer information using pen and paper.

This entails sharing the stationery, which goes against the basic principles of social distancing. Your written details can also be seen by other diners and staff, triggering privacy concerns.

You wouldn’t normally leave your name, phone number, email, address or any combination of these on a piece of paper in public – so why now?

Businesses collecting personal information from customers must abide by the Australian Privacy Principles under the Privacy Act 1988. This requires they “take reasonable steps to protect the personal information collected or held”.

The federal government has also released an updated guide to collecting personal information for contact tracing purposes. Establishments must use this guide in conjunction with individual directions or orders from certain states and territories. See some below.

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QLD Must keep contact information about all guests and staff including name, address, mobile phone number and the date/time period of patronage for a period of 56 days.

More details here.

ACT Businesses should ask for the first name and contact phone number of each attendee.

More details here.

SA Only real estate agents, wedding and funeral businesses should collect personal information from customers. But not restaurants.

More details here:

NSW Keep the name and mobile number or email address for all staff and dine-in customers for at least 28 days.

More details here.

The guide also outlines how businesses should handle customers’ contact information. The relevant parts are:

  1. you should only collect the personal information required under the direction or order

  2. you should notify individuals before you collect personal information

  3. you should securely store this information once you have collected it.

One point specifically notes:

Do not place the names and phone numbers or other details in a book or on a notepad or computer screen where customers may see it.

Thus, many establishments are clearly not sticking to official guidance. So could you refuse to give your details in such cases?

Venues are required by law to collect the necessary details as per their state or territory’s order. Venues can deny entry to people who refuse.

What would a comprehensive solution look like?

For contact tracing to work effectively, it should be implemented systematically, not in a piecemeal way. This means there should be a system that securely collects, compiles, and analyses people’s data in real time, without impinging on their privacy.

It’s perhaps too much to ask hospitality businesses to take the lead on this. Ideally, government agencies should have done it already.

The COVIDSafe app could have provided this service, but with it being optional — and contact tracing by businesses being mandatory — it’s not a viable option. That’s not to mention the issues with the running of the app, including Bluetooth requirements, battery life drainage, and history of problems with iPhones.




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How safe is COVIDSafe? What you should know about the app’s issues, and Bluetooth-related risks


Nonetheless, there are some free technologies that can offer better alternatives to the manual collection of customers’ details. These include:

All these tools have a similar set up process, and provide similar services. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular ones, Google Forms.

Using Google Forms

Google Forms is a tool that comes free with a Google account. The “contact information template” is a good starting point for businesses wanting to make a secure log of visitor details.

In Google Forms, you can create a workable contact tracing form within minutes.

Once you create a form to collect customers’ information, you just have to share a URL, and customers can fill the form on their own device.

You can generate a shareable URL for your Google form.

Data gathered via Google Forms is stored securely on the Google Drive account and can only be accessed through the same login that was used to create the form. The transmission of data from the customer’s device to Google Drive (where the data is then stored) is also secure.

Or use a QR code

If you want to make the whole process even easier, and not use a clunky URL, then using a QR code (linked to the URL of your Google form) is a great option. For this, you can use any free external QR code generator. These will generate a QR code which, when scanned by a smartphone, will direct the user to your URL.

This code can also be printed and hung on a wall, or stuck to tables where it’s easy to access without any human-to-human contact. A comprehensive guide to creating and accessing Google Forms can be found here.

QR code created using the website https://www.qr-code-generator.com/

That said, although the process of setting up and using such tools is very simple, there may still be people who are too mistrusting of the way their data is used, and may refuse to hand it over.The Conversation

Mahmoud Elkhodr, Lecturer in Information and Communication Technologies, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to stay safe in restaurants and cafes



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Lisa Bricknell, CQUniversity Australia

Now we have fewer cases of COVID-19, and restrictions are lifting, many of us are thinking of rejuvenating our social lives by heading to our local cafe or favourite restaurant.

What can we do to reduce the risk of infection? And what should managers be doing to keep us safe?




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COVID-19 is an infectious disease spread directly from person to person, carried in droplets from an infected person’s breath, cough or sneeze. If the droplets come into contact with another person’s eyes or are breathed in, that person may develop the disease.

Those droplets can also fall onto surfaces, where the virus can survive for up to 72 hours. If someone touches these surfaces, then touches their face, they can also become infected.




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Eating out has led to several clusters

We know people around the world have become infected while eating out.

Back in late January and early February, three clusters of COVID-19 cases in China were connected to dining in a single restaurant. A total of 10 people became ill over the next three weeks.

The air-conditioning had apparently carried contaminated droplets from an infectious diner to nearby tables. This prompted the researchers to recommend restaurants increase their ventilation and sit customers at tables further apart.




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In Queensland, more than 20 people connected with a private birthday party at a Sunshine Coast restaurant contracted the virus. Four were staff, the rest guests. We don’t know the source of infection.

Other outbreaks have been linked with restaurants in Hawaii, Los Angeles and a fast food restaurant in Melbourne.

Here’s how the coronavirus can spread in a restaurant.

The path to infection

Let’s consider the risk of infection from the moment you arrive at a restaurant or cafe.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

When you open the door, you may have to put your hand on a door handle. If that handle has been touched by a person while infectious, they may leave behind thousands of individual virus particles. If you then touch your face, you run the risk of the virus entering your body and establishing an infection.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-SA

If you avoid the doorknob trap, you may pick up the virus when you take your seat at the table, by touching the chair or the tabletop. Again, if you touch your face, you are risking infection. Similarly, you risk exposure by touching the menu or the cutlery.

When the waiter comes to take your order, they will likely enter your breathing space. This is usually considered to be a circular zone of about 1.5 metres around your body.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

If the waiter is infected but not yet showing symptoms, you may be exposed to droplets containing the virus on their breath or the breath may contaminate the tableware in front of you.

Now, your food is delivered and there’s good news. The virus is not transmitted through food.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

But wait. The air-conditioning can help the virus travel through the air from the infected person at the next table who has just choked on a crumb and is coughing uncontrollably.

Later, on a quick trip to the bathroom, you again open yourself to the risk of infection by touching the door and other surfaces. However, this trip allows you to take one very important step to prevent infection. You wash your hands with soap, taking care to hum Happy Birthday twice as you scrub and rinse.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Unfortunately, you fail to dry your hands thoroughly. Wet hands are much more likely to pick up microbes, so you may recontaminate your hands as you open the door and go back to your table.

When you go to pay your bill, you may be worried that cash may be a source of infection. While there were concerns about this initially, there is no evidence to date of any cases linked to handling money. Just in case, you use your credit card, but inadvertently transfer the virus to your finger as you type in your PIN.




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On your way out the door, you not only pick up more virus from the doorknob, but transfer some of the ones on your hand in return, ready for the next unwary diner.

How can I protect myself?

There are some simple (and familiar) things you can do to protect yourself as venues reopen.

Keep washing and drying your hands, thoroughly and regularly. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Wash or sanitise after handling money, touching surfaces, before eating and after visiting the bathroom. Avoid touching your face, including wiping your eyes or licking juice off your fingers. If you must touch your face, use hand sanitiser first.

Maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from other people, unless they are people you share close contact with.

Sit outside if you can. Direct transmission is much more likely indoors.

Finally, think about using a credit or debit card with a contactless transaction, rather than having to enter a PIN.

To avoid infecting other people, stay home if you have any symptoms or suspect you might have been in contact with a person who has tested positive.

What should cafes and restaurants be doing?

Regulations about the number of patrons allowed in cafes and restaurants vary between states and territories. But there are certain common rules of thumb.

First, tables need to be spaced at reasonable distances. This allows patrons to be outside others’ 1.5-metre breathing zones and also takes into account the potential effect of air conditioning.

While COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be spread through air conditioning systems, they do boost air flow. This means droplets may travel a little further than 1.5 metres. This spacing will also reduce the number of people in the venue at the same time.

Some venues overseas are using plastic screens to separate diners to try to reduce the risk of person-to-person spread. This should not be used as a substitute for correct distancing if there is sufficient space.

Tables and chairs need to be sanitised, using a chemical sanitiser such as diluted bleach, between patrons.

Social distancing is important and will limit the number of people in a venue.
from www.shutterstock.com

Cutlery and tableware cannot be left ready on the table. They must be stored to prevent contamination in the kitchen and brought to the patron with their meal. Afterward, they need to be cleaned and sanitised as usual.

Disposable cutlery should never be left out for self-service; it should only be provided with food or on request.

All frequently touched surfaces must be regularly sanitised – including door handles, refrigerator and freezer doors, taps, light switches, hand rails, PIN pads and touch screens.

Staff must maintain safe distances from patrons at all times and must never be allowed to work if they have respiratory symptoms or are suspected to have had contact with a COVID-19 positive person.




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How to lower your coronavirus risk while eating out: Restaurant advice from an infectious disease expert


We need to be vigilant

Coronavirus cases in most states and territories are now very low. So, the chance of coming into contact with an infectious person is unlikely and is why restrictions are now gradually being lifted.

However, we musn’t become complacent. We need to continue to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection via our cafes and restaurants. It only takes one instance of carelessness to start the viral ball rolling again.




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The Conversation


Lisa Bricknell, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

4 ways our streets can rescue restaurants, bars and cafes after coronavirus



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Thami Croeser, RMIT University

As Australia re-opens, the bars, cafes and restaurants that give life to our streets face a tough ask: stay open and stay afloat with just a fraction of the customers.

From June 1 in Victoria, for example, the limit will be 20 patrons, with 1.5 metres between tables or four square metres per patron. If that goes well, it’ll be 50 patrons from June 22 – if they can be seated the required distance apart. Many smaller businesses won’t be able to do that.

With the Jobkeeper package due to expire in September, the next couple of months is a critical window for traders to find new ways to seat patrons. Fortunately, street space can help a lot with this.




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Here are four proven ways to quickly reconfigure street space. We might even find them nice enough to keep. Have your say in the poll at the end of this article.

Footpath trade

Footpath dining already gives many iconic streets their character. Even two or three tables outside a small bar in the evenings can give life to a street.

Chairs on the footpath are part of the experience of dining out in Crossley Street, Melbourne.
Alpha/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Putting out tables sounds simple, but the permit process is the real hurdle. It can take weeks or months of waiting and uncertainty while a small team assesses a long list of details.

Councils could employ more assessors to fast-track the process, but there is another option. In the post-COVID environment, it may be time to trust traders and embrace more of the informality we see in cities with great street food. Councils could trial a system where dining is permitted by default in front of each establishment, subject to a few simple rules.

Traders must understand that their permits depend on not blocking thoroughfare. Disability access in particular must be maintained.

However, many footpaths are wide and quiet enough that dining tables could be up and working well in a matter of days.

Parklets

One roadside parking space in front of a café or bar might mean one or two customers – assuming they come to that business. A car park can instead become a “parklet” with space for six to eight people, while looking a lot more inviting. Put two or three parking spaces together and you’ve got a miniature dining area or a parklet.




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The parklet idea came out of San Francisco. Examples from there show how diverse and successful these can be. From weirdly sculptural to classically European to high-end and polished, they all add character to the places where they spring up.

Noriega Street Parklet outside a bakery in San Francisco.
Photo: Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders & Wells Campbell photography/San Francisco Planning Department/Flickr, CC BY-SA

In Melbourne, Moreland Council has one long-term parklet in Brunswick. Its simple, neat design fits plenty of patrons and includes a bit of greenery. Perth and Adelaide have examples too, but the potential seems to be mostly untapped in Australian cities.

And the benefits are significant. A recent parklet study in Perth found a 20-35% increase in local footfall, and 89% community support.




Read more:
People love parklets, and businesses can help make them happen


Grandview Hotel Parklet in Brunswick.
Google Streetview

Again, a bit of sanctioned informality may be the best way to get parklets working quickly. Each trader could be allowed to use, say, one or two parking spaces outside their business if some simple criteria are met.

If we decide the approach is worth keeping, San Francisco shows how to go from pop-ups to something bigger and better. The city’s first parklet was a roll of astroturf, a park bench and a tree in a pot. It lasted just two hours. Now there are over 50 parklets, a “how to” manual, a clear application process and case studies of the benefits.

This parklet popped up for a day on Park(ing) Day 2009 in San Francisco.
Tom Hilton/Flickr, CC BY



Read more:
A day for turning parking spaces into pop-up parks


Road closures

Roads are wide open spaces. Put bollards at the ends of a street that doesn’t need full vehicle access, carry out tables and chairs, and you’ve got a huge new seating area. It has been done and works well.

Meyers Place (above and below right), Melbourne, is closed to through traffic and open for pedestrians and dining.
Alpha/Flickr, CC BY-NC
Before full closure.
Aplha/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Of course, closing a street permanently is quite a process. I worked with the community to pedestrianise a Melbourne laneway called Meyers Place. Negotiating the legalities took about 18 months. Emergency, bin collection and disability access requirements had to be met.

The restaurants can now put tables on the former road space, surrounded by trees and murals under a green wall. The thing is, we started out by closing the street for just two weeks. Businesses rolled out temporary tables and chairs, astroturf and potted plants. The lane went beserk with activity; we went from tentative support to heavy pressure for a permanent pedestrian space.

We took our inspiration from a much larger closure in Ballarat Street, Yarraville. It was also temporary and got removed, but was brought back permanently with funding from traders and overwhelming community support.

Ballarat Street, Yarraville, was transformed with strong community support.
Darren Sharp/Shareable, CC BY

Parking lot conversions

Outside our inner suburbs, the areas dedicated to parking get bigger. But Copenhagen offers an example of how big an opportunity a large car park can be.

Kødbyen in Vesterbro, Copenhagen, has become a hub for fine dining, galleries and nightlife.
thewavingcat/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

In the city’s former meatpacking district, you can find anything from high-end seafood to a craft beer pub that pumps heavy metal and barbecue smoke. The central car park serves as a giant dining area – when the weather’s good, chairs and benches come out and hundreds of locals turn up. This is super-simple stuff, mostly involving folding chairs and benches, plus lots of people. It’s adaptable, fun and very popular.




Read more:
Freeing up the huge areas set aside for parking can transform our cities


The concept seems to work too in Melbourne too. “Welcome to Thornbury”, a popular hub for food trucks and outdoor dining, used to be a car factory.

Welcome to Thornbury’, the former site of a car factory, is now a drive-in food truck park.
Welcome to Thornbury

We can start right now (and probably should)

Community engagement with Melbourne’s new Transport Strategy 2030 indicates broad support for reallocating street space to people.




Read more:
Move away from a car-dominated city looks radical but it’s a sensible plan for a liveable future


Now is the time to press ahead, because of what’s at stake – not just jobs and profits, but our collective identity and sense of place. Food and drink are a big part of city life and how we spend our time. The places we gathered with friends, nurtured romances and celebrated milestones are where memories live. Doing nothing could mean these experiences are replaced by numbing “For Lease” signs.

Luckily, taking action isn’t very risky. We can give our hospitality sector a boost right now by allowing businesses to trial a set of proven approaches. Everyone will then have a chance to experience the changes and decide what they’d like to keep.




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Kebab urbanism: Melbourne’s ‘other’ cafe makes the city a more human place


The Conversation


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Thami Croeser, Research Officer, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.