Photographed: The Broadway Wok, just one of many takeaways in Sunderland that has received a 1 star hygiene rating and public criticism

Over the past two weeks takeaways and Fish and Chip Shops around Sunderland have been reopening, allowing customers to make in person takeout orders, albeit with social distancing rules in place. However, one concern observed in the resumption of various outlets is that staff are not still taking enough precautions to prevent the virus spreading. That is, in many takeaways are serving customers food again but are not any wearing masks or gloves, an unnecessary public risk.

Although such restaurants are not actually legally required to do so, any job which involves catering and the handling of food items in an outbreak like this should be approached with the highest of hygiene standards. Masks have been consistently recommended by expert bodies as a useful way to stifle the spread of the virus, especially given that it is spread by exhaled droplets and therefore airborne. This not only helps limit the individual from contracting the virus, but also limits those who may be spreading it without even realizing it before symptoms emerge.

In countries which successfully handled the virus, such as China and South Korea, wearing a mask for any kind of food related role has been mandatory since day one. This hasn’t caught on in the United Kingdom, but it should be business common sense. Given this, it is an unacceptable risk that some of Sunderland’s Takeaway outlets and Fish Chip Shops are failing to do this, despite now resuming the distribution of food to large numbers of people.

Takeaway owners however, argue that these measures are inconvenient to their work. Speaking to Sunderland Global Media, one owner stated: “it’s hard to answer the phone and the customers dont hear us and they touch their mask to set up their mask it’s more risky in a take away”- they also stated because the government doesn’t demanded it, it isn’t necessary.

Of course when preventing the virus, the answer isn’t “how little you can do” but rather “how much you can do”. It has been a long running theme that Sunderland takeaways have been always notorious for inadequate hygiene standards. In the middle of worldwide pandemic, this is even less acceptable than ever. If we are to overcome the virus, attitudes and habits must change drastically.