Health experts urge greater awareness of dining hygiene

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan public health experts on Monday called for greater public awareness of the need to practice basic good hygiene when dining out, in order to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Chen Chia-yang (陳家揚), director of National Taiwan University’s Institute of Food Safety and Health, said that although proper basic hygiene has been promoted for a long time it is not always diligently implemented.

Chen was speaking at the weekly National Taiwan University College of Public Health press conference to provide up to date information and advice on COVID-19,

Cooks or restaurant staff who handle food need to wash their hands every time they blow their nose, in addition to after using the restroom, Chen said.

Every restroom in a restaurant should provide liquid soap and disposable paper hand towels for staff members and customers to clean and dry their hands, Chen said, adding that not all restaurants are supplying both.

Chen Chia-yang (陳家揚), director of National Taiwan University's Institute of Food Safety and Health
Chen Chia-yang (陳家揚), director of National Taiwan University’s Institute of Food Safety and Health

“There should be signs in every restaurant restroom to remind staff members to wash their hands after using the toilet, but often we don’t see any sign,” Chen said.

Another reason for concern is that many food and hospitality workers are paid by the hour and do not have a salary if they take time off, which means some may choose to work even if they are feeling unwell, Chen said.

In addition, larger restaurant chains may also still ask a questionably ill worker to come to work if they are short-handed on a particular day, Chen said.

Restaurants should prepare readiness and response measures in such scenarios to avoid staff members come to work if they are sick, Chen said.

Chen also said that during the coronavirus pandemic period restaurant servers should wash their hands between serving different tables as an added precaution, while customers should always use a serving spoon or serving chopsticks if they want to share food.

“If we stay more aware and vigilant of these traditional methods of practicing good hygiene, then perhaps we can help lessen the impact of the virus on our lives and on the (food and hospitality) industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health, said Taipei should also follow virus prevention examples seen in cities overseas, such as in New York, where bars and restaurants have been ordered by the government to cut the number of customers they serve by half and increase the distance between tables.

“An example seen in Hong Kong is very good too, where restaurants provides a portable tabletop divider if you have to share a table with a stranger because of it being peak hour” he said.

Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權, center), dean of National Taiwan University's College of Public Health
Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權, center), dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health

As of Monday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Taiwan was 59, with one death. The World Health Organization last Wednesday declared the acute respiratory disease outbreak a global pandemic.