They’re three little words that most people hate with a passion, but still, there’s no doubting that we need to get used to The New Normal.

ith Phase Three now unlocking this week, many of us are taking tentative steps (or in some cases, running at top speed) towards hair salons, gyms, pubs and friends we’ve not seen in weeks.

The rules and guidelines are changing at warp speed, and the onus is still on everyone to stay safe and protect others. So what precautions can we take to reduce the risk of infection? Here’s some ideas to start:

BRING A MUG TO the HAIR SALON

For many of us, the hairdressers’ will be the first port of call now that things have eased up. So what should we bear in mind when we go? 

“We are recommending to our members that both team members and clients wear masks in the salon to offer maximum protection,” says Danielle Kennedy of the Irish Hair Federation. “In salons where it is not possible to put a 2-metre space between clients’ seats, those salons have fitted Perspex in between stations. Clients shouldn’t expect to see Perspex in every salon as most have opted for spacing their stations instead.”

For a salon visit, it’s also advisable to  bring your own book and travel mug wtih you when you go, as the usual perks are on hold for now.

“Temporarily all the communal touchables in salons are removed like magazines and so on, as they can’t be thoroughly cleaned,” notes Kennedy. “Some salons have invested in iPads, and others are offering higher powered broadband.”

SKIP THE SHARING PLATES

When you finally get back to your favourite restaurant, things could look quite different, as venues seek to make the experience as safe as possible for diners. Paul Cadden, a past president of the Restaurant Association of Ireland and general manager of Saba restaurants, says that his restaurants have implemented a one-direction system to ensure that people won’t bump into each other.

“We also have screens and hand sanitising stations, and we will be checking the temperatures of staff members every two hours,” he notes. “Staff will also be wearing visors.” Diners, meanwhile, can do their bit by not congregating in toilets or at the doors, where smokers usually stand.

“Some restaurants are implementing the wearing of masks if you’re going from table to toilet or to get you from the door to the table, but at Saba we won’t be doing that,” he says. “As Leo [Varadkar] said, people have an element of personal responsibility. We won’t be encouraging sharing food plates, for instance, but if someone wants to, that’s entirely up to themselves.”

WEAR A MASK WHILE SHOPPING

It’s not mandatory to wear a mask, but there’s a growing body of evidence that they’ll reduce the spread of infection. So when you’re buying your groceries, or indeed entering any other shop, you really should be wearing one. Geoff Byrne, Chief Operating Officer of Tesco Ireland, says stores are doing their best to keep shoppers safe.

“Measures we’ve introduced to date include plexiglass screens at checkouts, hand sanitising stations in store, increased cleaning of trolleys, baskets and customer touchpoints and clearly identified physical distancing signage,” he says. “While the HSE guidance on wearing masks is not mandatory, we have made face masks available to our colleagues, and continue to share the health advice that physical distancing, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene are the most important actions to protect from Covid-19.”

… AND ALSO ON THE BUS

Current advice from the World Health Organisation is that people should wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. However, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have advised that healthy individuals should consider wearing a face mask when using public transport, visiting busy closed spaces, such as supermarkets and for certain workplaces that involve closeness to other people. As before, coughing and sneezing openly is a big no-no, and if you are entering a new indoor space from outside, the ideal would be to either wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. As of now, it is mandatory to wear a face mask on public transport, and anyone who has been on a Luas or bus recently will affirm that staff are becoming vigilant in enforcing this particular guideline. Many seats on public transport vehicles have been ‘blocked’ so as to encourage social distancing,

MIND THE PICK N MIX!

If you’re dying to go and see a film again, the good news is that many cinemas are taking the heat out of social distancing for you, according to Graham Spurling, manager at Movies @Dundrum. “If you book your ticket online, the computer will automatically block the seats around you,” he explains. “We are limited to 50 people per screening.” Masks are not compulsory to wear in the cinema, but the usual safety measures are in place, among them contactless payments, hand sanitiser and wash points, and advanced food and drink ordering. Also, the hallowed pick’n’mix ritual is due to be changed in many cinemas: you will very likely need to grab those bon-bons with disposable gloves, and under supervision.

DON’T SHOWER AT THE GYM

Personal trainer Paul Byrne, owner of Bodybyrne Gym in Dublin notes that when it comes to working out in communal spaces, common sense prevails. “Put it this way, if you lick the ground, you’re going to catch something,” he says. To welcome his clients back, Byrne is staggering training times and takes contactless temperatures of everyone when they enter his gym. He also ‘sterilises’ the air using a device from topozone.ie, and cleans changing rooms after every client uses them.

To comply with new gym etiquette, Byrne makes a few suggestions. “Wipe every piece of equipment before you use is, and that way you’re responsible for your own actions,” he advises. “Bring your own water bottles and sweat towels. For dumbbells and barbells, people should wear gloves if possible. Also, beforehand, you’d have people asking others to ‘spot’ them if they were lifting weights, but that’s not going to happen anymore,” he says. “Use a sensible weight so that you don’t need someone to spot you. Try not to use the showers either — wear your training gear into the gym and, if possible, shower at home. If you want to be sensible, avoid gyms at peak times like 7-8pm or 5-6pm.”

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