A new reality during the coronavirus pandemic

The worldwide coronavirus pandemic, although it is weakening day by day, is still continuing and changing our reality. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that it will not be possible to live the way we used to until an effective vaccine or medication exists. However, given the economic effects of isolation, many countries are choosing to slowly defrost their economies. In any case, however, we hear about building a "new reality". What will it be and what will it consist of?

The coronavirus and the new reality

 Recently we have faced a new, so far unknown, dangerous pathogen – the coronavirus. It is a virus belonging to the coronavirus family, transmitted from human to human by droplets. It was detected in sputum, nose and throat secretion, blood, stool, urine and tears. It is unclear whether the infection can occur through contact with infected surfaces or by air. However, it is known that depending on the type of surface, the virus can survive on it for different lengths of time.

According to current knowledge, the coronavirus can survive up to 24 hours on paper and cardboard, up to 72 hours on stainless steel or plastic, and for copper surfaces it is 4 hours. All this also depends on such factors as, among others, air humidity and temperature. Hence all the restrictions imposed by the states on citizens and safety regulations in public places such as shops, restaurants, as well as hairdressing and beauty salons.

It is important to remember that many people can be carriers of the virus and be a source of infection for others, without showing any symptoms of the disease. The infectivity of the virus is determined by the reproduction factor (the R0 value). As in case of many other countries, in UK, since the lockdown, the reproduction value of the virus had dipped below one. While the Government was publishing its coronavirus strategy on May 11, the estimates put the R0 number between 0.5 and 0.9. Unfortunately, as lockdown rules began to be eased (e.g. pubs and bars re-opening), R0 rose again and went above 1 in London. Data from the beginning of July also showed the growth rate of Covid-19 transmission in the UK has slightly risen recently.

The abovementioned data may unfortunately be a pattern – as the restrictions are being been lifted and the economy is becoming unfrozen step by step, the number of Covid-19 cases might rise again. At the same time though, the difficult economic situation does not allow for the long-term exclusion of so many jobs. Although the pandemic has already lasted about two months, it may take much longer to recover from the economic crisis. In April it was expected that the restrictions introduced because of coronavirus would lead to the worst collapse of the world economy since the great crisis of the 1930s. The data from all over the world are currently even worse than expected.

In Europe, Lithuania was one of the first countries to put up with restrictions – on 23th April, all shops, restaurants and hairdressers were opened. In Germany, since 4th May, classes at schools have been partially resumed and museums, zoos and playgrounds have been allowed to open. Also in Italy, a country particularly affected by the pandemic, family visits, funerals performed in small groups and walks in parks have already been allowed. However, you still cannot leave your home without a clear reason or cross the borders of your region of residence.

In UK, on 11th May, the Government removed the first restrictions (red phase). It was allowed to open small shops (e.g. with clothes), hairdressing salons, garden shops and nurseries. At the end of May this year, due to a decrease in the number of deaths and new cases, the UK introduced another stage of the unfreezing of the economy (amber phase). People who are not able to work remotely were allowed to return to work and new rules were established to make the workplaces as safe as possible for employees. Small businesses of up to 50 people and restaurants were opened with a rule of minimum distance of 2 meters between customers.

The next stage of the unfreezing of the economy took place at the beginning of June. Since 1st June, it is possible to trade at outdoor fairs and in stores located outdoors as well. The lifting of restrictions also covered car showrooms and selected classes of primary schools. A week later dental practices re-opened. Since mid-June, shoe, cosmetic, sports and electronic shops were allowed to re-open. In the first days of July pubs and bars were also opened. However, it is still mandatory to cover mouth and nose in public places.

It is also recommended to keep a 2-metre distance from other people and stay at home if possible. We all have to learn to function in the new reality and "live with the coronavirus". Unfortunately, the forecasts are not comforting. Even if the epidemic is now going to die out temporarily, it is possible that it will recur in the autumn. It may also accumulate with a seasonal influenza epidemic.

A certain weapon in the fight against the coronavirus is the vaccine, which is being researched in many centers around the world, for example by scientists from the Queen Mary BioEnterprises Innovation Centre in the UK, CureVac Dietmar Hopp in Germany and Inovio Pharmaceuticals in the USA. The work on the vaccine is being carried out as fast as possible, but the final and mass production of it may not take place until next year. The first results of the research are already available – American company Moderna informed that the vaccine caused the correct immune response in volunteers. At present, we have no choice but to learn how to function in the new sanitary regime in order to reduce the number of new infections as much as possible.

A new reality – what does it consist of?

The sanitary regime in times of pandemic applies to every kind of industry, but the biggest changes can be seen in shops, restaurants and service facilities, including beauty and hairdressing salons. These are places that everyone uses on a daily basis. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been restrictions in grocery stores – a reduction in the number of customers, the need to wear disposable gloves, as well as the introduction of special hours for seniors. Nowadays, restaurants, cafés and bars must also comply with the new safety rules.

Among the requirements and recommendations for gastronomy we can find:

  • limited number of people in the premises (there must be at least 4 m2 per person);
  • disinfection of the table after each client;
  • keeping 2 m distance between tables. Tops may be separated by 1 m from each other provided that the tables are additionally separated by partitions at least 1 m above the table top;
  • keeping a distance of 1,5 m from guests sitting at separate tables;
  • wearing masks and gloves by cooks and catering staff.

Recommendations for beauty salons include:

  • the obligation for customers to wear masks, goggles or visors (at the hairdresser's, and at the beauty salon if the type of service allows it);
  • the use of disposable towels and disposable tools wherever possible;
  • keeping 2 m distance between standpoints (or 1 m if the safety barrier was installed);
  • accepting customers only by appointment via phone or online prior to visit;
  • the customer should not wait for the service in the waiting room. The waiting rooms must be out of use.

All implemented sanitary procedures and rules are aimed at increasing safety and minimizing the risk of contamination of employees and customers. The basis for functioning in the "new reality", in addition to the abovementioned recommendations, should be:

  • compliance with the rules of hygiene and personal protection – washing hands with soap and water as often as possible or using alcohol-based agents for disinfection; personal protection agents include disposable gloves, goggles, visors and surgical masks;
  • surface disinfection – it is important to disinfect the surface as often as possible with liquids and disinfectants containing at least 60% alcohol. These solutions destabilize the lipid membranes of viruses. Frequent disinfection of everyday items, such as phones, payment cards, but also handles and workstations after each client, is crucial nowadays;
  • tool sterilization in autoclave – its purpose is to destroy all forms of harmful microorganisms, as well as their spores. An instrument that has undergone a sterilization process is free of pathogens. An autoclave is a device used to sterilize mainly reusable instruments, for example metal claws or files. In the era of pandemic, autoclaves are also used to sterilize reusable masks, bandages, dressings and other equipment. For disposable personal protective equipment, such as masks, they must be sterilized before being sent for disposal. Sterilization is the only process that provides 100% protection against various pathogens, including coronavirus.

Only the use of these protection measures in combination with the guidelines will allow the spread of coronavirus to be reduced and the most vulnerable people to be effectively protected. Every client of a hairdressing salon or a beauty salon should have the service done with clean, sterile tools, unpacked in front of him/her, sterile. This is a guarantee that tools are proper for this kind of work. And only a professional autoclave sterilization sequence guarantees complete safety. Using only disinfectants or replacements such as UV sterilizers or ball sterilizers for this purpose exposes salon customers to danger.

Tightening up of safety regulations

All theanti-epidemic guidelines for each branch, including cosmetics, can be found on official websites prepared by the Government.

The currently valid document giving more details about these rules and current anti-epidemic policy, is the “UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy” presented to the Parliament by the Prime Minister at the beginning of May. Any new rules and modifications in plan are being updated on Government’s official website.

Whole Europe – not only UK, but EU member countries as well – is concerned about equipment shortages in hospitals. They are aware that more and more equipment is needed and that the flow of equipment must be standardized so that supplies are as efficient and effective as possible. The application of unified standards within European Union would allow existing producers of – among others – personal protective equipment, to harmonize the quality of products supplied to hospitals, which will result in greater protection for health professionals throughout the European Union.

United forces in the fight against the coronavirus

Not only the authorities, but also private individuals and companies were involved in helping. Funds were donated for the purchase of medical equipment, beauty salons shared their stocks of disinfectants, gloves and masks, and private companies started sewing masks to support health care workers operating "on the front line".

In the UK, such big and worldwide known industrial brands like Rolls Royce and the electronics manufacturer Dyson were called upon by the Government to start producing life-saving ventilators. Also Vauxhall answered that call, offering to assemble ventilators and ventilator components using 3-D printers. The brand became the member of the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium, which includes also Ford and some of the UK-based F1 teams.

Also the ENBIO company is trying to help hospitals in various European countries. The company transferred 100 sterilizers to Polish, German, Italian and Spanish hospitals, and 10% of each purchase in the Enbio online store will be transferred to hospitals. For ENBIO, as an autoclave manufacturer, issues related to human health have always been a priority.