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WATCHING movies in the theatre has been a popular pastime for Guyanese since time immemorial, and once the local cinemas install a special filter to help constrict the spread of the virus, COVID-19, cinemas will finally be allowed to reopen.

This was highlighted by Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony on Wednesday during his daily COVID-19 Update. Then, the minister highlighted that an assessment of the cinemas geared at determining how they can be safely reopened was conducted. That assessment yielded the suggestion that cinemas can use Hepa filters.

The Mayo Clinic in the United States explained that High-efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are a type of air filter that removes small particles and contaminants from the air. They can be attached to ventilation and air conditioning systems.

“A HEPA filter does not kill the COVID-19 virus, but the elements that can transport the virus attach to the filter so they cannot circulate in your living area,” the clinic said.

And, Dr Anthony related that these filters have been suggested for cinemas so that even if a patron who is asymptomatic (infected with COVID-19 but not displaying any symptoms) occupies that space, the filter would be able to clear the air of the viral particles which can be transmitted from that person.

“Since those recommendations were made, I am not aware if any of the cinemas would have installed such filters and, therefore, we will have to get another engagement with them to see whether or not they would be installing these,” Dr Anthony said.

He also highlighted that if cinemas are to be reopened, there would be restrictions on the consumption of snacks and drinks, since this would require persons to take off their masks to consume, thereby providing some leeway for the transmission of infection.

Though cinemas have not yet been given the ‘greenlight’ to reopen, President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG), Mitra Ramkumar, highlighted that these businesses have felt the brunt of the restrictions due to the pandemic. And this was confirmed by General Manager of MovieTowne Guyana, Rochelle Parsram, who lamented that the mall’s cinemas – arguably its biggest attraction – have been closed since March last year.

EASE UP THE RESTRICTIONS

Other cinemas have been lobbying for an ‘ease up’ on the restrictions to their operations as they have been forced to temporarily lay off their workers, and they would have not been able to generate any revenues since last year. Meanwhile, Netflix or Putlocker has been the go-to for numerous individuals while their favoured pastime has been restricted.

Should these cinemas opt to secure and implement these HEPA filters, there could be a limited amount of ‘movie time’ once more. Consideration, however, would have to be placed on cleaning these filters regularly and on ensuring that other COVID-19 measures, such as adequate sanitisation services, are in place. Updated COVID-19 guidelines have permitted places of religious worship to operate at 40 percent capacity. Meanwhile, indoor dining at bars and restaurants are also permitted at that 40 per cent capacity too.

In addition to ensuring that gatherings at these places of worship do not exceed 40 per cent, a well-placed source highlighted that these religious spaces would be tasked with ensuring that the place of worship is cleaned and sanitised immediately before and after all gatherings or services. Dining will only be permitted between the hours of 04:00 hrs and 21:30 hrs. Tables must be spaced six feet apart and no more than four persons are to be seated at one table, and each person must be three feet apart.

Sanitisation or handwashing stations should also be provided for persons to use at these spaces; persons should maintain a physical distance of six feet, once they are not from the same household; all persons must wear a face mask to cover the nose, mouth and chin; and, handshakes, hugs or other forms of physical contact should be avoided. The indoor dining at bars and restaurants is being monitored by the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA); the national curfew remains at 22:30 hrs to 04:00 hrs daily.

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