Contingency plan for reopening the Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto to the public

Main goals

This plan’s three main goals are as follows:

  • To organise a strategy that allows for the gradual reopening of the Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto (MHNC-UP). This reopening aims to allow both visits from the public and return to scheduled activities on the part of the Museum itself;
  • To guarantee the safety of everyone involved: workers, collaborators, visitors, service and delivery staff, among others;
  • To contribute to the containment of the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Reopening dates

The MHNC-UP has been open to the public since the following dates:

  • April 5, 2021 – Botanical Garden;
  • April 6, 2021 – Hall of Biodiversity and Core Pole.

The dates for reopening the bar at the Biodiversity Gallery/Botanical Garden will be decided in due course.

The schedule for the MHNC-UP will be as follows:

  • Botanical Garden – Monday to Friday, from 9h00 to 19h00; weekends and holidays, 09h00 to 1300;
  • Hall of Biodiversity and Core Pole – Tuesday to Friday from 10h00 to 13h00 and from 14h00 to 18h00 (last entry: 17h30); weekends and holidays, 09h00 to 1300.

Main measures to be implemented

01.   Reducing the risk of transmission caused by interpersonal contact

01.1. Containing the number of people allowed into the MHNC-UP at any given time

  • The maximum capacity guidelines for the MHNC-UP have been adjusted to the criteria that has been defined by the Council of Ministers. For both the Hall of Biodiversity and the Core Pole the maximum capacity is now of 8 people per 100 m2.
  • Maximum capacity guidelines have been arranged for other spaces of public access within the Hall of Biodiversity and the Core Pole, such as rooms, corridors, halls, bathrooms, lifts, among others.
  • A specific area has been assigned within the Main Building of the MHNC-UP aimed to welcome researchers, students, or others who might want to visit the collections at the MHNC-UP. This will be done through pre-bookings which will be registered in an access calendar so as to ensure minimal contact.
  • Suspension of guided visits and cultural and educational activities, until further notice.
  • Deliveries and other services will be given access to the spaces through an organised schedule, so as to guarantee they will not coincide with the public’s visiting times.

01.2. Time limits and physical contact

  • The halls and reception areas of both the Hall of Biodiversity and the Core Pole will be delimitated using floor signage to guarantee the maintenance of social distancing.
  • The visiting spaces will benefit of the same floor signage and other materials such as railings, to maintain distancing between visitors as well as minimum contact between visitors and staff/collaborators of the MHNC-UP.
  • The reception areas of both the Hall of Biodiversity and the Core Pole will have protection railings that ensure that social distancing guidelines are followed.
  • The minimum distance recommended between visitors and workers/collaborators is of 2m.
  • Gatherings of 15 people or more are disallowed.

01.3. Wearing individual/personal protective equipment

  • The use of face masks is mandatory to every visitor to the Hall of Biodiversity, the Botanical Garden, and the Core Pole.
  • Masks will be available for purchase at ticket counters.
  • Masks have to be worn by every worker/collaborator/staff member, including those of external companies (eg. Security guards and cleaning services) and any others who might visit the MHNC-UP facilities to provide services.
  • The use of visors is recommended to everyone. If this is not possible, the social distancing guidelines require at least 1m separation and use of the mask.
  • The use of gloves is recommended in very particular situations, such as when aiding suspected cases or performing specific cleaning tasks, among others.

02.   Information and dissemination

02.1. Installation of information tablets/panels? And disseminating information within the MHNC-UP

  • Information panels will be installed in the following areas: entrance of the Botanical Garden, reception hall of the Hall of Biodiversity and Core Pole, bathrooms, lifts, passage/circulation areas of both the Hall of Biodiversity and the Core Pole, exhibition spaces of the Hall of Biodiversity and Core Pole. These panels will remind visitors and staff of the guidelines set by U.Porto that must be followed at all times.

02.2. Guidance given by the MHNC-UP staff/collaborators

  • Meetings will be taking place on a regular basis with the aim to clarify any points, questions or doubts that might arise from this plan or any other plans released by the U.Porto referring to the return to normal activity. These meetings will be aimed at workers, collaborators, and any external staff (security and cleaning services).
  • The MHNC-UP’s staff will promote the safety measures (hygiene, social distancing, and use of face masks, among others), encouraging all visitors to comply.
  • The members of the security team responsible for invigilating and safeguarding the MHNC-UP will actively participate in enforcing safety measures (hygiene, social distancing, and use of face masks, among others).

02.3. Dissemination of information via the MHNC-UP website

  • The MHNC-UP’s website will contain a specific page dedicated to the dissemination of information produced by the Public Relations Department of U.Porto.

02.4. Digital paperwork only

  • Printed materials, including tickets, receipts, and leaflets will no longer be available to visitors. Instead, they can be sent upon request to the email addresses of the visitors in question.

03.   Reducing environmental risks

03.1. Personal hygiene

  • Alcohol-based antiseptic solution will be available in dispensers in reception areas as well as spaces that require maintenance and other access points around the exhibit areas, especially those with interactive modules and/or considered generally more densely populated by visitors.
  • Liquid soap and hand towels will be replaced more frequently in bathroom areas.
  • Visitors, workers, staff, collaborators, and any and all people who enter the MHNC-UP areas will be required to sanitize hands with alcohol-based antiseptic solution prior to entering the facilities.
  • Clear records will be kept in regards to the replacement of alcohol-based antiseptic solution, liquid soap, and hand towels.
  • All workers/collaborators/staff will be under guidance to wash and sanitize hands frequently.

03.2. Sterilization and cleaning of spaces and equipment

  • The company hired for cleaning purposes will have their intervention plan revised and adjusted to fit the current requirements.
  • Both the externally hired company and the regular MHNC-UP staff will maintain up to date registers referring to the frequency and depth of sterilization of spaces.
  • Interactive and frequently touched surfaces and materials will be disinfected on a frequent basis. These surfaces/materials might include interactive buttons, lifts buttons, ATM pads, among others. This cleaning process will be done by both the cleaning staff and the invigilators/guides for each space.
  • The working areas will suffer reinforced cleaning and sterilization, which will be done by both the cleaning staff and the workers/collaborators/staff in each space.
  • Bins with pedals (to facilitate discarding of individual protective materials) will be installed by the exit doors of all three MHNC-UP facilities, as well as in the Hall of Biodiversity’s isolation room.

03.3. Ventilation of spaces

  • The reception halls and bathrooms will be ventilated as much as possible.
  • Access doors to exhibit areas will be open at all times.

04.   Recognising and approaching suspected cases

04.1. Recognising suspected cases

  • Access will be denied to all employees, collaborators or visitors who show any symptoms of the disease or who have had contact with a person with a proven diagnosis of COVID-19 until the end of the 14 days of quarantine, starting from the last contact date.
  • The body temperature of visitors, employees, collaborators and other individuals upon entering the facilities of the Hall of Biodiversity and the Core Pole of the MHNC-UP will be measured, in accordance with the University of Porto’s ‘Recommendations for the resumption of in person activities’ (p. 11).

04.2. Approaching suspected cases

  • A temporary exhibition room will be set as the designated isolation area at the Hall of Biodiversity. This space will be equipped with a table, chair, thermometer, alcohol-based antiseptic solution, face masks, gloves, and a bin. Any person, be it staff of visiting, with manifested symptoms will be isolated in this room until the SNS24 Hotline (808 24 24 24) or the Serviço de Saúde Ocupacional da U.Porto (220 426 643 – between 9h and 17h) can be contacted.
  • The isolation room in the Historical Building of the Rectory of the University of Porto will be available to accommodate any suspected cases identified in the MHNC-UP’s Core Pole.
  • In the possibility of a suspected case, the staff will act in accordance with the guidance given by the U.Porto ‘return to normal activity’ recommendations document (pp. 19-22).