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Restaurant managers to become vaccination police.

EARLIER  this week, when the  Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting announced that restaurants could once more open their doors to sit-in diners, proprietors, owners and chefs countrywide breathed a collective sigh of relief. For those whose businesses had reached a tipping point, the reprieve was so great, that the added caveat, that patrons should be fully vaccinated and able to produce their vaccination cards, appeared to be a minor detail.

Not so for the unvaxxed and the unmasked, who make up a surprisingly large number of the population. Not all of these people are conspiracy theorists or avowed anti-vaxxers – they simply have not got around to visiting the Wilkins Hospital or any of the local council clinics to be vaccinated.

Grilled pork chop at Queen of Hearts Cafe and Bakery

Conversely there are those who refuse the vaccine on the grounds of personal choice and liberty, and you might classify them as freedom fighters. But as the Delta variant pushes up the cases of Covid-19, we are seeing a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ and the looming spectre of a fourth wave of the virus that could make landfall at Christmas time.

Chilling out at Queen of Hearts in Hurworth Road.

While various homegrown prophylactics ranging from steaming, eating lemons and various herbal remedies have been adopted by individuals in an attempt to ward off infection, many Zimbabweans have put their faith in the use of Ivermectin, a horse and cow de-wormer. A lack of data, and widespread misinformation, make it difficult for ordinary people to decide on the best course of action, but this tweet about Ivermectin from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration US) could prove useful:

‘You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.’

Covid-19 isn’t going away, so decisions must be made on how we are going to live with it. While the government would like to achieve herd immunity in Zimbabwe, it doesn’t demand the general public to get vaccinated. But it is issuing mandates requiring vaccinations for certain activities. While anti-vaxxers protest that certain mandates infringe their human rights and personal liberties, should enough data and information be made available, they might agree to give up their personal freedom for the common good.

First off the mark to respond on social media to the new regulations for sit-in dining was @JdbRestaurant Chef Johannes de Bruijn. No longer will patrons need to travel to Kambanji to collect their three course meals to be plated at home; simply make a reservation and enjoy fusion cuisine in classy surroundings.

During lockdown, Queen of Hearts Café and Bakery in Highlands and @Tinkabellzw (grilled chicken specialists) regularly posted appetizing dishes for take away on Instagram, and wasted no time in advertising their new opening hours for vaccinated sit-in diners.

What can be more satisfying than a meal enjoyed in a restaurant with delectable food, ambience and great service? Statistics show that many people are still reluctant to eat out, but choose your venue carefully, avoiding enclosed, indoor spaces, and all should be well.

Last Saturday, George and I returned to Sabai Thai in Stokesay Close, an open-concept beach style restaurant, looking out onto the verdant palm trees and shrubs of Plant Plan Nursery. Smartly-dressed staff wearing masks took our temperatures and provided hand sanitiser, before photocopying our vaccine cards to avoid red tape on future visits.

The delicious starter platter for two (satay chicken, spring rolls, sesame prawns and chicken nuggets) was served with sweet chilli jam, peanut butter sauce and a fiery homemade fresh red chilli chutney.

A North-Eastern Thai style minced chicken salad  with chilli and herbs followed, and we managed, before closing time at 15.30, to wolf down tempura bananas with ice cream, and a Malva pudding. (Opening and closing times are subject to change.)

Making up for lost time during the shutdown, we booked a table for two for Sunday lunch at Queen of Hearts in Hurworth Road. Sitting under the trees and listening to live music, a glass of chilled white wine in hand, Queen of Hearts is the perfect place to kick back and chill out. It’s also the go to place for sushi, although George swears by the grilled pork chop and chips. Departure time was approaching, but we couldn’t leave before enjoying a smooth, flavoursome cappuccino, and sharing a slice of luscious carrot cake.

Restaurant managers may find it difficult to take on the role of vaccination police, and unvaccinated customers may feel that their individual freedoms are being challenged when they’re refused entry. But as everyone tries to move beyond the pandemic, new logistics are inevitable, and in the words of Sam Cooke, ‘a change gonna come’.    A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff

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