How to wine and dine safely in Montreal during a pandemic
COVID-19 hasn't gone away completely, but there are ways to reduce the risk of transmission, specialist says
With the sun blazing overhead, Montreal terrasses filled up fast this week with customers eager to soak up the sun with a cool drink in hand while sampling some of the city's delicacies.
Fidel Vasquez, who manages India Rosa on Mount-Royal Avenue in Montreal, said reopening after being shut down for three months has been "amazing."
"We weren't expecting it, but we were full three services inside and outside," he said.
And things weren't much different over at the nearby Pub West Shefford where co-owner Martin Proulx said, "It was rocking. I mean, it's sort of like the perfect storm, I would say."
Though transmission of the novel coronavirus appears to be tapering off in Quebec, it hasn't disappeared completely.
Given that, can people dine out safely?
"Nothing you do is 100 per cent safe," said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an attending physician in the Jewish General Hospital's infectious diseases division.
"This is all about risk reduction and making things as safe as possible."
At high risk? Don't do it, doctor says
If you have been identified as being at high risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19, it's best to steer clear of wining and dining at restaurants, Oughton said.
If you do decide to go out, he suggests calling the restaurant ahead or checking its website to get an idea of what safety precautions are in place and if those safety measures will allow you to relax and have a good time.
Contacting the restaurant ahead will give a clear idea as to whether reservations are required and if there are fixed seating times.
"There may be, because of physical distancing, a lot of restaurants are operating under the usual capacity," he said. "They may be trying to adjust for this by limiting the amount of time you are allowed to be at the table for."
These are the types of things to check ahead of going, he explained.
No double dipping, food sharing
Oughton said it's also important to consider who you are dining out with as the risk of transmission is strongest when people are close to each other and talking. That's when respiratory droplets spread.
Physical distancing, handwashing and masks in public spaces are key to preventing the spread, but wearing a mask and distancing isn't possible when dining with others.
That's why people shouldn't be dining out with people outside of their "social bubble," Oughton said.
Earlier this month, Dr. Richard Massé, a public health advisor with the province, said indoor gatherings should only include members of three households.
Once at the table, he said there is no double dipping.
Food should be going from the serving plate, to the diner's plate and not passed around to others. Utensils should also not be going from people's mouths back to serving plates.
"All these things, they're just meant to reduce the risk as much as possible while still letting you enjoy for the last few months," Oughton said.
With files from Simon Nakonechny