HCM CITY – HCM City residents were given a taste of the ‘new normal’ as in-person dining at restaurants resumed yesterday.
For the past five months only offer delivery and take-away services were allowed due to the severe COVID-19 outbreak.
Many restaurants, cafes, and other food and beverages in Thủ Đức City and Bình Thạnh, Tân Bình and Tân Phú districts received customers since early morning.
There were still restrictions in place and customers were required to sit at least two metres apart and comply with 5K regulations.
"I'm very excited to know that the city has allowed restaurants to offer in-person dining because it means we'll get more customers and of course more profit," Nguyễn Thị Trang, owner of Huế-styled snakehead fish soup shop on Thủ Đức City's Tăng Nhơn Phú Street.
"My restaurant was forced to close for three months, and we have just offered take-away services recently, but the number of customers was quite modest. I hope the dine-in service will attract more customers and my restaurant will be as crowded as it was," she said.
Trang said all of her staff were vaccinated, wear face masks, and keep the required distance as regulated.
Nguyễn Hạ Vy, resident in Bình Thạnh District's Bạch Đằng Road said she and her mother went out for hủ tíu (thin rice-noodle soup) early in the morning.
"This is my first restaurant meal after a long time of social distancing. I really miss this feeling," she said.
"It's not all about the taste of the soup. Eating out again brings the feeling of being normal again and eases boredom and stress although we still have to strictly follow the prevention measures."
Thursday was the first day restaurants, cafes, and other food and beverages places could cater for sit-in services again. However, they must close at 9pm and the number of customers would be capped at 50 per cent. Alcoholic drinks were still not allowed except at wedding venues, or restaurants at hotels for tourists.
Chairman of the city's People's Committee Phan Văn Mãi said on Thursday that the city allowed District 7 and Thủ Đức City to carry out a 'pilot' period of selling alcoholic beverages due to their success in controlling the outbreaks.
The pilot period runs until November 15, with specific areas to be decided by local authorities.
The two localities would report to the city's authorities after November 15 to inform their decisions on whether to expand the permission to other localities, he said.
Customers were required to leave records of entry at each food and drink establishment using QR codes via the health declaration/medical surveillance system.
The establishments had to have proper food safety licences, a separate section for the reception of food, full stock of soap and hand sanitation products, and register their venues at the website: https://antoan-covid-19.gov.vn.
Staff must have either received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine or recovered from COVID-19 within six months. Frequent COVID-19 testing for staff would also be required.
During the 4th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, HCM City experienced more than five months of social distancing with different levels. After nearly a month of “opening up”, there are nine districts at level one (new normal), 12 districts at level two (medium risk). Bình Tân is the only district at level three (high-risk).
The HCM City's Department of Industry and Trade estimates that there are about 7,500 food and beverage businesses and thousands of eateries in the city. Dine-in services were forced to stop for the past several months, causing a sharp drop in the revenue of the food industry.
Statistics show that food and beverage revenue in the city in the past eight months was only VNĐ32.07 trillion, a reduction of 20 per cent over the same period of last year. Many businesses had to downsize their operation or close down.
The department said it will coordinate with suppliers to ensure the goods and raw materials for the city's market, work with relevant authorities to carry out inspections with regards to COVID-19 control and prevention compliance, according to the city's decision. – VNS
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