Various countries, including India, are lifting restrictions on travel and gatherings bit by bit. After the opening up of malls, gyms and the metro, the government of India has now allowed the opening up of bars and pubs. But looking at the rate at which the COVID-19 infection is still spreading, is it safe to visit such places?
A study, published in the September issue of Morbid and Mortality Weekly Report by the US’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stated that going to the locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options can increase the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 infection.
Determining the ability of COVID-19 transmission after unlock
In order to assess the amount of exposure seen in the community or in people who must have come in contact with COVID-19 patients, scientists studied 364 patients at or above the age of 18 years with symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Of these patients, 154 were infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus which was confirmed by RT-PCR testing. Another 160 participants were kept in the control group as they had negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.
The scientists observed and asked about the activity of all these patients before they got the results of their test.
The results of the study showed that around 42 percent of the case-patients (COVID-19 positive) had close contact with a person whereas only 14 percent of the control-participants (COVID-19 negative) were in contact with people. Close contact refers to coming within six feet of another person for 15 minutes or more.
The case-patients also stated that they went for dining in restaurants and went to a bar or coffee shop two weeks before the onset of the disease. This indicated that they might have come in contact with infected people in these settings where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain.
Restaurants and bars can become hotspots
The basic risk involved is obvious - one cannot wear a mask while eating and drinking, whereas masks can be effectively worn while doing other activities such as shopping or even visiting your workplace.
Furthermore, the spread of infection in bars and restaurants is also associated with the circulation of air.
As most of these places have centralised air-conditioning, the ventilation and intensity of airflow may influence the transmission of COVID-19 infection even when social distancing is practised and masks are worn.
What can be done to prevent the spread of the disease?
Since practising social distancing and wearing masks can be difficult in restaurants and bars, one must avoid places that offer on-site eating and drinking to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Rather than sitting and eating right there, you can get your food packed and take it to your house. In case you still wish to visit such places, take care of the following things:
1. Call the restaurant or bar and ask them about the practices they are following to reduce exposure of the customers and employees to the disease.
2. Ask about the maximum number of people that are being seated in the bar/restaurant at a time or when it is the least crowded.
3. See if the sanitation and hygiene measures are being undertaken properly.
4. If possible, ask for outdoor seating so there is better ventilation.
5. Instead of using cash, opt for an online banking portal to pay your bill.
For more information, read our article on Can asymptomatic patients spread COVID-19?
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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