You’ll have to be working very hard to not have witnessed the global hysteria around COVID-19, or its more popular, and drinks industry related name, Coronavirus. The worlds media is gripped
As of writing, just over 90,000 people, mostly in mainland China have been infected and just over 3,000 people have died. The virus has begun to spread and there have been significant outbreaks in Iran, South Korea, and Italy. Governments and business have begun taking action, advising citizens, banning travel, and cancelling events around the world including Prowein in Germany, the global stock market has tanked, with the biggest one day decline in the history of the Dow Jones, and hotels in Hong Kong are running at 5-15% occupancy.
So what, you may ask, has this got to do with Healthy Hospo and the hospitality industry?
Hospitality is an extremely public facing job. We spend our days interacting with random strangers, whether that be in a bar, a restaurant, a coffee shop, or hotel. With a highly infectious communicable disease such as Coronavirus, or any other type of flu, those working in the hospitality industry have potential to spread the disease quickly through our exposure to a larger number of people than the average worker interacts with.
Coronavirus does bring up some interesting thoughts around how we approach sickness within the industry. Business, Government health and safety, and trade body advice is to stay at home if you’re unwell, to avoid passing on your illness to customers or other staff. However, it’s commonplace in any industry with low hourly, or tip, based pay combined with limited sick leave entitlements, or statutory safety nets, for workers to turn up to work sick rather than incur the loss of income.
As an industry, we have taken an unspoken oath to look after the people that frequent our establishments, no matter their race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or level of health . It’s the very definition of hospitality. This oath covers providing great service, a friendly smile, plus good food and drinks. It also includes not making people sick and potentially risking their lives.
And our industry is at risk. People are panicking and choosing to stay at home, governments are advising people to avoid public gatherings, drinks companies have banned travel, hotel occupancy rates are down, and bars and restaurants are struggling to get people through their doors. Businesses that were already struggling will go under, events companies are having contracts cancelled, and people will be made unemployed.
So, what’s our advice?
In the immortal advice of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t Panic! It is extremely unlikely that you have contracted COVID-19, even if you live in China. There are around 90,000 cases for the global population of 7.8 billion. It’s even more unlikely that you are at risk of dying from it, unless you are over 70, too young to read this, or have an impaired immune system.
That’s not to say you should be blasé about it. The world’s medical authorities are worried for a reason. There is currently no vaccine, the virus is spreading far more rapidly than other global pandemics we’ve experienced recently such as SARS, MARS, or Ebola, and the world is panicking.
Follow good hygiene guidelines, wash your hands regularly. Use tissues or a handkerchief if you need to sneeze and if you feel flu or cold symptoms developing, then go and see your doctor and follow their medical advice. And as we have exposure to such large numbers of people, call in sick and stay at home. If you manage a venue, be aware to the situation, create an action plan, and clearly communicate with your staff around the steps to take to protect the staff and customers.
But perhaps most importantly, don’t be racist. China is the victim here, not the perpetrator. At a time like this, when the world is in panic, we need more love, not hate. Show compassion for those who are bearing the brunt of the suffering, don’t blame them. Our industry has always been inclusive and welcoming, both towards the guests we invite into our venues and those that choose to work in hospitality. Let’s keep our venues as safe sanctuaries away from the hysteria and madness of the outside world and continue to provide a space for people to relax, feel welcome, and free of racism and bigoted judgement.