ROME (Reuters) – The nail care section of the Femme salon in Rome looks almost like a prison visiting room with a row of people on one side of a glass partition and visitors on the other.
Just about the only difference is that there is a slot at the centre of each counter where the customer can slide a hand through to the other side.
Welcome to the brave new world of looking good in post-coronavirus Italy, where barber shops and beauty salons will be allowed to re-open on Monday along with retail shops and restaurants – all under strict social distancing and hygiene rules.
At Femme, a large salon in a built-up, middle-class area of Rome, beauticians were preparing nail files, clippers, combs and other equipment.
As of Monday, each item will be individually packed in small plastic wrappers and put together in one-per-customer bags. Anything not thrown away will be sanitised after every use.
Pink tape lined the floor of the salon, with big circles indicating to customers where they should wait. A limited number of customers will be allowed in and staff will wear masks and gloves at all times.
Italian health authorities have issued specific guidelines for barbers and beauticians, whose sector counts some 260,000 jobs, because their business is considered particularly risky due to the close physical contact.
Workers have been told to have conversations with clients while looking at them in the mirror and not directly in the face.
Magazines and any other items that can be passed from hand to hand are also out.
Barber shops, which tend to be much smaller than beauty salons, must work on a one-customer-at-a-time reservation system and keep their shop doors open.
Coronavirus is also expected to strain the retail fashion trade. At the high-end women’s clothing shop Spazioespanso in central Rome, manager Alberto Volpe said it will be difficult to adapt to new routines, spaces and rules.
“The challenge is huge, so big it is hard to quantify, and most of all there is uncertainty. The sense of uncertainty is dominating everything,” he said.
At the one-Michelin-star Marco Martini restaurant, tape measures were out as staff checked the new distances between tables and waiters practiced their safe serving skills.
“All our energy, all the hours we spent on our sofas in these months of lockdown, will we put it all into the frying pan,” owner Marco Martini said.
“But our passion, dreams and perseverance will remain the same as before, if not stronger,” he said.
(Writing by Philip Pullella; Editing by Hugh Lawson)