It should always have been the case, but after more than 80 days in lockdown, I think South Africans now have greater respect for those folks who work in supermarkets.
While we cocooned at home, at least initially, these essential workers went about ensuring that when we headed to the shops, the shelves were stocked and things were kept ticking over.
One of the many added safety protocols during this time, at stores across the country, has been the clear plastic screens that separate the cashiers from the customer at checkout.
We’re not talking about the clear plastic face shields that some members of the general public insist on wearing, because that’s an issue unto itself. Stop it, you’re embarrassing yourself.
VICE took a closer look at which safety measures are most effective, looking at how many countries around the world are adopting a ‘bubble’ safety approach:
The Bubble is less a literal globule than it is an idea that, if we simply install tons of thin, transparent barriers between ourselves and the germy world around us we can move through life again, just like we did pre-COVID. Whether bubbles are actually a sufficient solution remains unclear, but that hasn’t stopped designers and “futurists” everywhere from trying it in a 3D rendering, or sometimes even real life.
In some instances, the bubble approach sees the installation of glass or plastic dividers between diners at restaurants (Taiwan), whereas other more drastic measures include dining entirely in an enclosed ‘glass house’.
Great for those who enjoy privacy whilst dining out, but terrible for those who enjoy eavesdropping. I’m torn.
So, do these measures actually work in shops?
The most practical format of the Bubble can be found in grocery stores and pharmacies in the form of makeshift sneeze guards that separate cashier from customer; a necessary attempt at protecting essential workers with something.
These Bubbles emphasize function over form—they’re not sleek, but they’re also not pretending to be an art object. They simply do as much as possible to keep essential workers away from the particulate-shedding masses.
Yes, they work. Nothing offers 100% protection from the possibility of catching, or spreading, the virus, but these plastic screens do reduce the chances of that happening.
That’s before you consider the peace of mind they may offer the supermarket cashier, so that they can perform their work duties without the added stress of fearing a customer could sneeze on them at any point.
Much like the use of face masks (they work – don’t be a snowflake and make sure you wear on in public), any measure that offers added protection should be embraced.
And what about the future of the bubble approach, and where to next? One designer reckons air travel should become bubble-compliant, and if it provides further legroom, and prevents the person next to me from drooling on my shoulder, count me in.
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