Some Chinese restaurants in B.C. forced to close amid COVID-19 fears: catering group
VANCOUVER -- Health officials in B.C. maintain the risk of novel coronavirus remains low, but the fears and misinformation about the mysterious illness continue to spread.
Canada Catering Association – a non-profit group supporting the owners of Chinese restaurants – is sounding the alarm about how business has been declining since the outbreak because of people's concerns of contracting COVID-19.
"Now, you see it's not packed as before; there's only six tables at the moment," said Jinghua Tang, owner of Marine Bay restaurant, through a translator.
She said the lunch and dinner crowds have been going down, a trend seen by other businesses.
"Business has dropped rapidly by at least 50 per cent, some restaurants have fallen by 80 per cent, and they have suffered serious losses," said the association's William Tse in a press release. "Many restaurants plan to temporarily close and renovate, and employees are forced to apply for employment insurance."
Three restaurants – one in Vancouver and two in Richmond – have already closed for temporary renovations. The association said three more restaurants are already planning to shut their doors in the coming weeks.
Tang said she even considered closing her restaurant as a last resort because there are a lot of overhead costs: rent, taxes, bills and salaries.
"Without any support, we cannot cover the cost of running this restaurant," she said. "We will have to close until the coronavirus is resolved."
To prevent further closures and help the restaurants recover their losses, the group met with those in the industry to form strategies.
Industry leaders collaborated to form a health and safety plan; one of the suggestions includes hand sanitizers at the restaurant entrance.
The group is also looking for tax exemptions from the municipal, provincial and federal governments for six months.
Premier John Horgan said that is unlikely.
"I encourage people to go out there and support those businesses; that's the best way for them to recover right now," he said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix echoed that sentiment and said the best way to strengthen the economy is for people to dispel misinformation and have trust in the health care system.
Dix said nearly 1,000 samples have been taken from roughly 700 patients in the province and only 6 of them have tested positive for COVID-19.
In the meantime, the catering group said there are ways restaurant owners can strengthen their businesses: by offering food and beverage coupons and collaborating with food delivery businesses.
As of Friday, there have been 76,796 confirmed cases worldwide. In B.C., there have been six confirmed cases. The first person who tested positive for the virus has since recovered, according to health officials.