The Government’s August ‘Eat out to help out’ food and soft drink discount offer is kicking in at 72,000 UK restaurants, cafés and pubs.
Following government guidelines, the hospitality industry has done a tremendous amount of work to reassure customers that it is safe to eat out. Rigorous risk assessments cover everything from staff training, regular deep cleaning and PPE, to adopting social distancing measures and employing IT to reduce staff-customer contact to a minimum. However, one area is too easily overlooked – namely ventilation.
A continuing debate rages over the transmission of COVID-19, but it is now agreed that aerosol transmission is the main vehicle for infections. Super-spreader events have too often occurred in poorly ventilated indoor venues, including restaurants and bars.
An article in the highly-respected Boston-based lifestyle magazine The Atlantic, entitled ‘We need to talk about ventilation’, is well worth reading.
The article includes the case of a Guangzhou restaurant where the air conditioner played a key role in infecting nine customers:
Benjamin Cowling, the head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health, points to a case at a restaurant in Guangzhou where a yet asymptomatic COVID-19 patient infected nine other people, many of whom were sitting at other tables but were in the direct line of the air conditioner, which was blowing air from one end of the restaurant to the other. Tables right next to the patient’s but not downwind did not have a single infected person, and closed-circuit camera videos from the day show that the people at the infected tables didn’t interact with the patient at all. It was the air. Cowling’s colleagues analyzed the fluid dynamics of that outbreak, showing that the air conditioner blew the air in one direction, where it hit a wall, recirculated back, and was pushed out again, basically trapping the unlucky tables downwind, with the infected air going “round and round and round,” as Cowling described it…
It is better to be safe than sorry. Check your ventilation system is not a friend to COVID-19!
The best way to reassure customers your business is safe is by informing them about the care you’re taking through the detailed measures you’ve adopted.
This is where PR has a key role to play.
Julian Demetriadi PhD FIH MHOSPA
T: 01988 500 358
M: 07585 505309
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