There’s no denying the severity of COVID-19, better known as the Coronavirus. Thousands have lost their lives; entire countries have suffered in terms of health and economy; cases of xenophobia and racism have risen exponentially. But with the outbreak of Coronavirus, the international media has become a jet stream of constant scaremongering. Even more so than usual.
Since the virus arrived in Britain just over a month ago, there’s been plenty of talk surrounding the food and drink industry, with local businesses having suffered: particularly those in the world’s Chinatowns.
Speaking to BBC News in February, Martin Ma, general manager at the Jinli restaurant in Newport Place, explained that Coronavirus’ outbreak in the UK brought “immediate cancellations”, with diners citing the virus as the reason. He also went on to explain that bookings at the restaurant’s four branches had fallen by 50 per cent, with the flagship restaurant alone having lost £15,000 across the weekend. At the restaurant, preventative measures have been taken to prevent any spread of disease. Staff returning from China are kept at home for at least 14 days (as recommended by the NHS) and sanitiser gel is used liberally. Alas, Jinli is just one of the country’s Chinese restaurants to have suffered such negative effects.
‘Plea’ to local restaurants
Following the spread of Coronavirus panic throughout UK office buildings, national office provider, Offices.co.uk, has launched a ‘plea’ for local restaurants to deliver takeaway food to neighbouring office buildings during the panic.
“All the staff in our buildings across the UK still need feeding, and we are asking local restaurants to contact their neighbouring office buildings to help provide takeaway food during the Coronavirus shut down,” said Jonathan Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk.
“We don’t want to see any of our restaurant neighbours hurt financially through this crisis, and therefore ask local food outlets to step up and provide food to people directly – we need to work together,” he continues.
Moreover, the organisation has outlined a selection of “essential” tips “in order to pre prevent the spread of the virus, and the financial strain this will inevitably result in”. Some of these are sensible: “get strict on hand washing”; “stock up on sanitiser” (soap and hot water is sufficient, but it doesn’t hurt to be clean); “wipe surfaces frequently”; and “time of work” (only if absolutely necessary, nonetheless).
Takeaways over restaurants
Choosing takeaways instead of visiting restaurants seems unnecessary, however. Of course, takeaways are more financially viable for the restaurant trade than completely empty restaurants, but we shouldn’t be avoiding Chinese restaurants (or any restaurants, for that matter) based on the Coronavirus. We should be continuing to support them in a time of heightened panic.
With the world’s news outlets and social media having become a bear pit of hoaxes, false information, and fake news – we should be listening to health professionals during this period of justified anxiety. At the time of writing, the NHS website claims that, as “a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person. Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. It’s very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food.”
The website also continues to suggest: “Most people can continue to go to work, school and other public places. You only need to stay away from public places (self-isolate) if advised to by the 111 online coronavirus service or a medical professional.” So is it really necessary to avoid restaurants?
Instead, we should be using our common sense, with former President Barack Obama hitting the nail on the head with a tweet published last night.
“Protect yourself and your community from coronavirus with common sense precautions: wash your hands, stay home when sick and listen to the @CDCgov [CDC’s official Twitter source for daily credible health and safety updates] and local health authorities. Save the masks for health care workers. Let’s stay calm, listen to experts, and follow the science.”