While the World goes crazy for webinar and online tastings, and I am duly doing my share, the wine school in Tokyo where I work has finally opened the gates. The Spring Semester has finally started on June 1st, two months behind schedule.
How we deal with fears of contagion? What do we do to offer the safest possible experience?
Thorough sanitation is the first point: not that we were teaching in the filth before, and some of these measures we were already taking in March before closing, but now the process is better defined and systematised. Tables and desk are disinfected with alcohol, as door knobs, chairs and all the places that may come in contact with the students.
When dealing with the students, the office staff is supposed to wear a mask and a face shield, like the one I am using in the photo above. Students will come to the reception counter one by one and they will have their hand sanitised with alcohol. After that their temperature will be measured with a non-contact thermometer. Finally, if all goes well, they will be admitted to the classroom, assured that they are wearing their own mask. Thankfully everyone is cooperating and we did not get any claims or protests, like people not willing to use the face mask or else.
The classroom: for wine courses the tables were usually arranged on a island shape or U-shape, because of some discussion activities that were implemented in the session plans. Since group works are impossible now, the tables are disposed on a traditional classroom shape, with everyone looking ahead. For social distancing, each student will have his or her own table, when this is not possible we have readied panels to divide nearing seats. This means less space to accommodate everyone, but we have enough and frankly there are less students coming this semester, for obvious reasons. Windows are always open to promote airflow.
The teacher will have to wear a mask at lesson (except during tastings). If you want to talk for 2 hours with a mask make sure that it is of good quality: I tried last Monday for the first lesson of WSET Level 3 and mine was constantly slipping down. Such a pain in the — face. At least the face shield is not mandatory for the educator, because the sound would be muffled, it is a bit difficult to breathe and it gets pretty hot inside that helmet.
Another point is serving: the bottles are still passed around, but each student is provided with a pair of gloves. Disinfectant is also available in the class, should it be needed. The same is valid for the educators when opening the bottles before the lesson, they use gloves.
Some of these measures are annoying, but if they can let us to stay in business they are more than welcome.
A bunch of new infections yesterday, although active cases are decreasing. Will this end soon? Probably not until a vaccine is developed and made widely available. In fact I am more worried about the coming autumn and winter than the immediate future.
Anyway, we carry on.