With the end of COVID-19 restrictions in sight – when people will be able to come together in groups of all sizes in the home, as well as in and outside of restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs – it continues to be crucial for staff to wear PPE outdoors.
While we’re considerably less likely to contract the virus outside – due to the continuously circulating fresh air, which carries many of the viral particles away – it can still be transmitted through droplets from the mouth and nose, while talking, coughing, sneezing or even just breathing.
In fact, 5-10% of COVID-19 cases are thought to have been a result of outdoor transmission, and it’s almost certain that these instances are the result of a lack of social distancing, and the absence of masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as screens and partitions.
As we move into the summer months and the days gradually grow warmer, it becomes more tempting for staff members to abandon their masks – thinking that it probably won’t make that much difference – when engaging with customers outdoors.
Despite this, masks and other PPE do make a difference, significantly reducing the chance of staff catching or transmitting the virus – even outside – and the slight discomfort of wearing one during the summer months is nothing compared to the potential consequences of having no PPE in place at all.
As an alternative option on a really hot day, staff could switch to using face shields to reduce the insulation that standard face masks typically provide, while still maintaining the same – or an even greater – level of protection from the virus.
Additionally, screens and partitions can be used to erect makeshift blockades between different seating areas, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 particles, particularly in ‘sheltered’ outdoor seating areas, where the air flow isn’t as effective at blowing away the viral particles.
This PPE can also be used to protect staff, who will be able to take refuge behind the screens when engaging face-to-face with customers, as coronavirus particles will be unable to travel through the solid surface.
But why is it still so important to enforce the use of PPE outdoors?
Especially now that the hospitality sector is back in full swing – and with the summer months drawing people out into beer gardens, or the outdoor seating areas of their local pubs or eateries – it’s important that staff stay vigilant, erecting PPE where it’s useful, wearing masks and sanitising their hands regularly.
As the country edges closer to obtaining herd immunity, we collectively move towards a future where UK residents are protected from COVID-19, as a result of the protection provided by the fully-vaccinated section of the population.
Right now, around 42 million people in the UK have had at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine – over 60% of the country’s population. Moreover, the number of people who’ve been given both doses is just above 30 million, which makes up about 45%.
This makes us tantalisingly close to achieving herd immunity – which is reached when at least 70% of the population has been fully vaccinated – meaning that we can protect the vulnerable and elderly and ensure that the NHS isn’t overwhelmed. This could happen before the COVID-19 virus gets a chance to present as a third wave, which could save thousands more lives.
One of the many small things we can do to make this possibility a reality is to continue to embrace PPE in – and outside of – our businesses, ensuring that staff members stay vigilant: using PPE when necessary, regularly sanitising and social distancing where possible.