Experiences of visiting places in a COVID-19 world
Hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes and visitor attractions across England have now been open for a few weeks. This last week I took some R&R and have visited some places for the first time since lockdown.
Last weekend, I visited a popular local wetland nature reserve. Booking online and ahead was essential, and numbers were very limited. The hides were limited access to allow social distancing, and windows drilled closed or open. There was no problem with social distancing. Hand sanitiser was available throughout the site. Importantly, we all felt safe throughout the visit.
On Wednesday I visited a local popular Indian restaurant for a meal. Having booked ahead via telephone, they rightly took a name and address in case it was needed for track and trace. On arrival, the tables were spaced out, and although busy, social distancing was maintained. The waiters regularly disinfected tables, surfaces and menus. They provided cutlery on a tray, and when food arrived, they placed it at the far end of the table for us to bring nearer, so that they maintained a social distance. Payment was contactless at the table. The important thing - it was well organised and we all felt very safe.
On Friday I visited a very well known and very popular tourist attraction with my family. Booking ahead online was essential. Hand sanitiser was available throughout and some of the indoor attractions within were limited in the numbers allowed, which led to queues where social distancing was haphazard. One large area of the site had narrower pathways. These were one way but where there were things to see, it led to congestion, and I felt it more important to move away from the area than to see the attraction. It made parts of the day difficult to enjoy. Raising this with staff on the ground, they felt unable or unauthorised to do anything about it, which for a major attraction was a disappointment and a concern. In my opinion they allowed far too many people in to the attraction.
On Sunday, I visited Southport and walked into a restaurant without booking. Alternate tables and single use disposable menus were used, and they kept everywhere very clean at all times. All staff wore a face mask. I felt safe throughout, but nobody asked us for a name or address in case it was needed for track and trace purposes, which is concerning.
On the whole, in the places visited over the past few days, restaurants are doing well, and some attractions too, but the need to make money seems to be at the expense of following government guidance, and too many are in. Businesses should review their risk assessments at regular intervals, and ensure they stick to the guidelines on the gov.uk website. The attraction visited on Friday will be avoided at least for the time being, and at least until they sort out their pinch point issues and overcrowding. It spoiled an otherwise enjoyable day and family occasion.
To all businesses, these are very hard times, but make the customer feel safe and you will attract repeat business. Good luck.