As we enter the sixth month of restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are wondering whether it’s safe to eat at restaurants given that the number of cases continues to surge nationwide.
The short answer? Yes, but with some caution.
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found adults with COVID-19 were twice as likely to have been to a restaurant.
Published September 11, the CDC's study looked at 802 patients at 11 different health care facilities across the US. Per the study, “adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.”
The implications of these results are significant.
As the report states, "Eating and drinking on-site at locations that offer such options might be important risk factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection." In turn, their recommendation is for people to reduce exposure to places where it's difficult to socially distance and wear a mask (e.g. when eating and drinking).
Echoing this is the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) who announced last Friday that restaurants were a principal driver of transmission of COVID-19. This came as a surprise to many, not least the Dublin café-owners who had to shut down their businesses hours later under the latest round of restrictions in the capital.
While 'wet pubs' opened in 25 counties on Monday – bars in Dublin, which is still in Level 3, remain closed – the regulations surrounding attending them, as well as restaurants, seem to continuously change.
The service industry is on its knees in Ireland at the minute, so if you can, please consider supporting a local restaurant.
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- All bars not serving food remain closed.
- Recent restrictions mean indoor dining is not currently permitted.
- Bars and restaurants can continue to serve customers in an outdoor area, but customers must order a substantial meal.
- Food businesses that do not have an outdoor space can offer a takeaway or delivery service for the next three weeks.
While Dublin is currently the only location in Ireland on Level 3, the Government are considering whether restrictions may be introduced in eight other counties.
In the rest of Ireland
Pubs not serving food opened across the country for the first time since mid-March. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, operations are resuming under strict guidelines:
- Limits on customer numbers remain in place in every premises.
- At least one metre of social distancing has to be maintained.
- Enhanced cleaning regimes for all surfaces and contact points are in place.
- Table service is mandatory, so ordering or sitting at the bar is a thing of the past, for now.
- Groups are limited to six people from three different households.
- If two-metre distancing can be implemented, the 105-minute time limit for customers can be waived.
- Publicans must keep a record of the arrival times of their customers as well as their contact details and group numbers.
- All customers are to be off the premises by 11:30pm.
The guidelines for reopening restaurants, cafes and pubs that serve food, issued by Fáilte Ireland, stipulate that “physical distancing of two metres should be maintained. However, if this is not possible, this can be reduced to one metre in controlled environments,” as long as certain precautions are taken. These include making pre-booked time slots available, with a maximum of 105 minutes allowed at tables, followed by 15 minutes for staff to sanitise the area before the next guests are seated.
- All restaurants and pubs that serve food will be required to close to the public by 11:30pm.
- A maximum of six people from no more than three different households are allowed at a table outside of Dublin.
- In Dublin, outdoor gatherings with members of other households should be avoided completely.
- Bookings aren't necessary everywhere, but they are hugely encouraged.
- The restaurant is obliged to take the contact details of one person in the party dining, and to retain them for one month, for contact-tracing purposes.
“Non-compliance can result in closure of a business”, according to Fáilte Ireland’s operational guidelines, which were drawn up in conjunction with the HSE, Health Protection Surveillance Centre, and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
Essentially, for those of you not keen to attend a restaurant/pub right now, the best way to support local businesses is to order takeaway items from them. Those delivering drinks can be found here.
This article was originally posted on our sister site, Irish Tatler.