BANGKOK – This is what “normal” will look like for the foreseeable future.
In Connecticut, restaurants are reopening with outdoor-only dining and tables 6 feet (2 meters) apart. In Beverly Hills, California, the rich and glamorous are doing their shopping from the curb along Rodeo Drive. And preschools around the U.S. plan to turn social distancing into an arts-and-crafts project by teaching kids how to “create their own space” with things like yarn and masking tape.
As the U.S. and other countries loosen their coronavirus restrictions, it’s back to business, but not business as usual. In fact, it is becoming all too clear that without a vaccine against the scourge, the disruptions could be long-lasting and the economy won’t be bouncing right back.
In Italy, where good food is an essential part of life, once-packed restaurants and cafes are facing a huge financial hit as they reopen with strict social distancing rules after a 10-week shutdown.
Experts warned that as many as one-third of the country's restaurants and bars could go out of business, up to 300,000 jobs in the sector could vanish and losses could reach 30 billion euros ($32 billion) this year.
“We have to turn upside down all the activity that we did before,” lamented chef Raffaele di Cristo, who must wear a mask and latex gloves as he prepares food at the popular Corsi Trattoria in Rome. “Everything is changed.”
Corsi reopened this week with half its tables removed to ensure the mandated 1-meter (3-foot) spacing. Hand sanitizing gel was placed at the entrance, and a new ordering system was installed so that customers could read the menu on their phones instead of listening to waitresses recite the specials.
In Connecticut, restaurants that reopened Wednesday for outdoor dining are required to rearrange workstations so that employees don't face one another, and stagger shifts and break times to minimize contact among them. Markers must be installed to encourage customers to keep their distance from one another.