By Dimithri Wijesinghe
With curfew being relaxed throughout the island and lifted in all areas except Colombo and Gampaha, the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services has released interim guidelines for work settings titled “Operational Guidelines on Preparedness and Response for Covid-19 Outbreak for Work Settings” courtesy of the Directorate of Environmental Health, Occupational Health, and Food Safety.
The guidelines provide general preventive measures which apply to most work settings and advise all employers to develop a Covid-19 preparedness plan, considering the occupational exposure level of employees and the individual risk factors, addressing the level of risk associated with the worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites, and other recommended good practices mentioned in the guideline.
The guidelines are expected to not only enable the successful prevention of the spread of infection but will also prevent panic situations in the event a suspected case is detected.
For restaurants and eateries, in addition to the general measures, specific requirements have been issued. Some of these include disinfecting all the surfaces of chairs and tables after each use, instructing all workers and customers to maintain a distance of at least one metre inside restaurants and eateries, arranging furniture accordingly to allow this, ensuring all workers wear face masks, and displaying the menu either by TV screen, display board, or under the glass pad of the table. Dedicated staff members are to be assigned to serve food in places buffets are available in order to avoid many customers handling spoons and other utensils; customers shall not share crockery and culinary equipment.
Just as with all other workplaces, all cleaning staff should wear gloves and masks and waiters should wash their hands frequently to prevent any cross-contamination. Culinary equipment and crockery should be thoroughly washed with soap and water.
Additionally the “Operational Guidelines on Preparedness and Response for Covid-19 Outbreak for the Tourism Industry” have also been released courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation.
Harpo Gooneratne, speaking to The Sunday Morning Brunch, shared that while they are ready and willing to follow any requirements the Government mandates, they have yet to give the green light to proceed. Of course, they must wait for the clearance from the Public Health Inspector’s Union (PHIU) and while the majority of the establishments in Colombo are looking to start operations, the mechanism is not yet available, particularly considering that curfew is still imposed in Colombo despite the lax application.
This document released by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation was designed mainly to help and guide hoteliers in a more effective way. It contains systems and procedures used normally in hotel operations which have been included as they are considered to be important, particularly with respect to health and hygiene matters.
Speaking to several hotel chains in Colombo, we were informed that chains such as Cinnamon City Hotels will remain closed until further notice. However, a number of select restaurant outlets will be open from 18 May onwards. Nevertheless, these plans are subject to government protocols and requirements.
Speaking to Ruwindra Dias of Jetwing 7, we were informed that at present, their in-house restaurants will remain closed for onsite dining. However, they will continue their delivery services for which they have prepared standard operation procedures for all staff members and associated personnel to follow.
He shared that they have taken strict care to follow the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation and therefore, the management has educated all categories of staff of the critical importance of these procedures designed to make operations at the hotel safe for both guests and staff alike. Special attention has been given to make it extremely safe for staff to carry out their assigned tasks and the safety of the staff will not be compromised at any time, Dias shared.
Jetwing, best known for its sustainability practices, also made note that the protocols set by the authorities may cause them to deviate from established sustainability measures, and that it is understood – and hopefully accepted – by their patrons that we must work with a view of reinstating the sustainability measures no sooner the temporary crisis period is over.
Speaking to an official from the Ministry of Health, we were told that unless venturing out was absolutely necessary, they advise it’s best to remain indoors and continue to practise social distancing to a greater extent. They shared, however, that hotels and restaurants must absolutely follow the guidelines set out; it must be clearly understood that any instructions issued by the state authorities from time to time will be binding, and must be strictly complied with.
PHOTO Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash