Japanese Experiment Shows How Quickly COVID-19 Spreads Around Restaurants 

A new experiment has shown what could happen if restaurants had remained open with no additional hygiene measures during the coronavirus pandemic. With lockdowns around the world and in the UK starting to ease and importantly so, it is more important than ever to head the government’s ‘stay alert’ messaging. Restaurants and buffets are potential hubs for COVID-19 to spread and with people soon expected to slowly be allowed to use cafes, pubs and restaurants, vigilance is key. Japanese state broadcaster NHK, working with infection experts, released a video in which they conducted a restaurant experiment to demonstrate how quickly germs can spread. The researchers applied fluorescent paint to the hands of one person in a group of 10 visiting the makeshift restaurant.

After leaving the group to take food from the buffet, sit down and eat for half an hour, the black lights were turned on. This revealed everywhere the ‘virus’ has spread in that time, illuminated by the fluorescent paint. In just 30 minutes, one ‘infected’ participant had spread paint onto the hands of every person in the restaurant.


The virus was visible on three participants’ faces, particularly around the mouth. It could also be seen on the food, tableware, drink jug and the bill. The participants appeared shocked at the reveal. 


The video highlights the importance of hand-hygiene and supports the warnings about the dangers of enclosed social areas such as restaurants, pubs and hotels. Buffets were suspected to be at the root of the initial spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships; these were among the first severely affected locations at the outbreak of the pandemic.

Professor Hiroyuki Kunishima of St. Marianna University School of Medicine told the broadcaster: “A place where the unspecified majority can easily touch is called a high-touch surface, which is harbouring danger. I want you to be aware of the risks and take appropriate measures.” While many of us are keen to get back to our favourite restaurants, seeing this real-time depiction of how the virus spreads is a reminder of the caution we must take. In the UK, businesses in the hospitality sector could be reopening as early as July, according to Sunday’s announcement. However, as the government’s new slogan encourages, we must ‘stay alert’ as to how quickly germs can spread in confined areas.