A local hotel in Metro Manila provides multi-purpose bubble pods to guests in an effort to protect them from COVID-19 infection, but experts say it may be linked to the spread of the virus.

/ 6 January 2021

Dire times have forced a lot of restaurants to find ways to survive; with COVID-19 still present, business owners thought of innovative ways to attract guests and assure their safety while dining outside. 

In Pasay City, a hotel is offering an air conditioned and ventilated dining space where its guests can enjoy their meals with no exposure to other diners.

Claiming that this is the first in the Philippines, the Sheraton Manila Hotel introduced ‘Vubble’ last December.  “We are happy to finally introduce the Philippines’ first bubble dining pods, the Vubble! Vubble dining pods are special enclosed dining spaces at The Vega Poolside with open airflow and virtually no exposure to other diners. Special curated 5-course dinner packages for small groups are now open for reservations,” the hotel said. 

But little is known about the safety of these bubble pods. In an interview with Forbes, Professor of Epidemiology at University of Toronto in Canada David Fisman described tents similar to this as “boutique COVID party.” 

“I think it depends who’s in the bubbles. But, if you are meeting friends, and that’s as poorly ventilated as it looks, I’d pretty much call that a boutique COVID-19 party! If you’re in there with your household bubble you’re not exposed to anyone you’re not exposed to anyway,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Business Insider Medical News Contributor and Diagnostic Radiology Specialist Joy Henningsen said that eating inside bubble pods are likely to be as bad as eating inside restaurants. 

“This is a fantastic way to take outdoor dining from pseudo-safe-ish to downright scary. Do not enclose yourself in a bubble or you might as well be inside,” she said in a Tweet.

Duke Global Health Institute Director Dennis Clements, has the same concern over the bubble tents. “First of all, being outdoors [with no bubble] is a big help,” Clements said in an interview with MPR News. “When you enclose yourself in a bubble, it stops airflow.”

Clements stressed that people eating inside bubble pods are not totally isolated as they would have to interact with waiters and other restaurant staff who would bring food and drinks. 

“If whoever enters the bubble is diseased, their viral particles are contained in the bubble. That ruins the reason for eating outdoors to begin with — dispersal of aerosols by breeze,” he explained. 

Addressing concerns on safety, Sheraton Hotel assured that arriving guests will go through the usual health check, including a forehead thermometer. 

“Hilton and Sheraton are actually running these Vubbles for us, of course they have their international standards. So that’s something that the general public should not worry about. They’re sanitized and kept clean,” Resorts World Manila chief operating officer Stephen Reilly said.

As of this post, the Department of Health (DOH) has yet to make a statement nor release safety protocols for people dining in bubble pods.