As social contact rules lift, how can we keep staying safe?

We’re all looking forward to brighter days ahead as the lifting of lockdown restrictions progresses. But what does this mean for the life we’ve become so accustomed to over the past year or more? Ultimately, the risk is still there, especially as new variants become of increasing concern. As of this week, the government has estimated that the coronavirus variant discovered in India will be the dominant strain in the UK in a matter of weeks.

Despite the shift in official advice, owners and managers of public spaces still have a responsibility to keep staff and customers safe. However, they also have to make a profit; the UK economy is down 8.7% from pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, offices and venues alike need to find a solution that balances personal safety with the bottom line. Here, we summarise the guidance offered by health and safety experts.

Stick with masks when you can’t social distance

A key thing to keep at the forefront of your mind is that many younger people won’t be fully vaccinated until much later in the year. This is particularly relevant to hospitality venues, where many customers and staff will be younger. Even once these groups are vaccinated, there will still be some people at risk – and we have a responsibility to protect them. 

To address these issues, in situations where you can’t maintain social distance, officials still recommend using masks when not eating or drinking. Ideally, all staff serving and handling food should have their mouths and noses covered. This will also instil a sense of security for customers. 

Maintain hygiene and respiratory etiquette 

Hopefully, closer attention to health and hygiene will be something that will stay with us long after the pandemic is over – after all, it can only be a good thing. Businesses should continue to encourage regular hand washing or sanitization, particularly in food service areas. 

Equally, we should maintain the emphasis on covering the mouth and nose with your arm when coughing and sneezing. Clear signage will help people remember respiratory etiquette and proper procedures. Meanwhile, surfaces should be regularly disinfected.  

Ensure there is proper ventilation

There is evidence that in poorly ventilated spaces, people with COVID-19 can infect others more than a metre away. These transmissions – known as airborne infections – occur in indoor spaces with stagnant, stuffy air. Therefore, business owners should ensure that spaces are well-ventilated. 

To achieve this, they need to go beyond cracking open a few windows and ensure their HVAC systems are adequate and up to date. The most effective strategy is fitting UVC air filtration units, the best of which work to destroy up to 99.9% of all bacteria and viruses in the space. Plus, you can share this information with building users – units like those offered by Rejuvenair come with their own publicly accessible app to monitor air quality in any given space.  This allows people to check the safety of the air they’ll be breathing inside of a building before they go in.

Instil confidence in staff and customers

Making sure people feel safe in public is key to getting the economy back on its feet. Although we’re all excited about getting back to work, back in the pub, and doing more socialising, it’s still important that we feel safe. Businesses have a vital role to play, for the good of society and the good of the economy.

The road to keeping us safe and happy in public space is all about making sure safety precautions are maintained, visible and reasonable. With adequate supplies, clear signage, maintaining reasonable PPE, and thanks to a little help from some cutting edge technology, we can help keep work and entertainment venues safe and healthy.