In a pandemic-hit world where summer or fall collections by renowned fashion houses are as anachronistic as handshakes and hugs, a new accessory has climbed up the ranks of must-haves — not so much for its look or comfort but for its utility and safety quotient.
The dowdy PPE — personal protective equipment comprising masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, shoe and head covers — a must for healthcare workers and those in the frontline of Covid duty, is fast becoming a part of the dress code for those working in sectors where customers and service providers come in close proximity of each other.
Central security personnel deployed at the airport were among the first professionals besides healthcare workers to begin using the PPE suit. Staff frisking passengers were asked to don the protective suit in early April when special flights began evacuating foreign citizens stranded in the country.
“Since we were dealing with foreigners, we felt it prudent to take protective measures early to prevent infection. But working in it is difficult. The heat and humidity level appear to shoot up and it’s extremely uncomfortable. Also, it takes more time to perform the same task. While frisking a passenger used to take 10 seconds earlier, it takes 30-35 seconds now,” a CISF personnel at the Kolkata airport said.
When the Vande Bharat flights started bringing back stranded Indians from across the world, and more recently, when domestic flights took to the skies after a nearly two-month hiatus, the PPE became a part of the uniform for airline crew and airport workers.
Now, with the country slowly emerging out of a prolonged lockdown, individuals working in salons, jewellery stores, hospitality and public transport are increasingly donning PPE or a lookalike version of the hazardous material suit to ensure their own safety and that of their customers. The protective gear is now freely available at the medical-supply outlets in central Kolkata, wholesale markets in Burrabazar and even New Market.
Last week, when banker and Lake Town resident Rahul Saikia stepped into a neighbourhood salon to get rid of his lockdown locks, he was greeted by a familiar voice from behind a full-body PPE. Similarly, when Chandrani Gosh went to a Bowbazar jewellery store to pick up a necklace she had given for repairs before the lockdown, she was momentarily taken aback on spotting three salespersons in full protective gear behind the counter.
Most top-line jewellers in the city have provided PPE kits to their sales personnel. “Our customers are very particular, and they will not step into a store unless they are assured of a sanitised and safe environment. We are ready to inspire their trust and conduct business in a safe environment,” said a representative of Senco Jewellers.
Faisal Khan, a partner at the Glamour Glow salon in Lake Town, too said that all their employees had been provided with two sets of PPE kits. “Before we opened our doors to the customers, our salon was also thoroughly sanitized and disinfected,” he added.
The transport department has also provided PPE kits to its drivers and conductors but after using them for a few days, most have stopped wearing them. “It is so hot anyway. And the bus is so crowded. I only wear a mask and face shield,” said a conductor of a government bus.
Sumitra, a housekeeping staff at a leading hotel, said doing rooms in a PPE is extremely challenging. “While we are used to working with gloves, the PPE suit makes movement difficult. Hence, even doing the bed perfectly takes more than twice the time that it used to earlier. Thankfully, since I work in a top hotel, the room is air-conditioned. So my situation isn’t as challenging as those who have to be in PPE in a non-AC environment,” she added.
Source: Times of India