Eateries feel the pinch as new curbs begin to bite - RTHK
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Eateries feel the pinch as new curbs begin to bite

2020-03-30 HKT 18:46
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  • Eateries feel the pinch as new curbs begin to bite
Violet Wong reports
Restaurants in Hong Kong have started to feel the pinch of new social distancing measures as the week opened with an already-scarce lunch crowd getting thinner.

The commercial district of Wan Chai, which is normally bustling with customers who work in the area, has been quiet since the Covid-19 outbreak began.

But with a slew of new restrictions announced on Friday, like a limit of four people per table, and with tables placed at least 1.5 meters apart, restaurants saw even fewer customers coming out for lunch on Monday.

Calvin, an IT worker who was in the area, said he was buying takeaway as he feared even the stepped-up measures can't guarantee that he won't be infected in restaurants.

"I just prefer eating at home or eating in the office, at least I get my own table and I will try to minimise interaction with any other people," he said.

"The point is you cannot avoid, for example, when someone walks by if they're not wearing a mask, the droplets just come to my food, and I still think it will be a bit dangerous."

Another customer called Thomas said although the restrictions can effectively minimise transmission of the virus, he noticed not all restaurants were strictly following the rules.

"It will be very effective, if we have just 50 percent of capacity in the restaurants, but I've not seen any restaurant really applying one table over two separations," he said.

A French bistro in the area seated patrons at alternate tables and even provided hand sanitisers for its customers, while other restaurants ran temperature checks on, or offered face masks to, customers.

One pub owner, surnamed Leung, said he has lost 50 percent of business, and customers are still scared to go out for meals, although takeaway orders have increased.

It was a similar story over in Yau Ma Tei, with some restaurants posting signs on their doors saying that they'll be closed for the next two weeks because of the new measures.

One noodle restaurant employee, surnamed Leung, said that when she tried to take the temperature of a customer on Sunday, the customer refused to cooperate, swore at her, and broke the thermometer.

She said that her restaurant has eight tables, but under the new measures they can only fill three tables at a time.

She said that although the number of people ordering takeaway has increased, it was only up by 10 percent, and was only worth between HK$100 to HK$1,000 per day.

One restaurant owner told RTHK he has even received complaints from diners that they now have to wait even longer to be seated, and that some diners refused to either wear masks or undergo temperature checks.

He said the new measures were affecting business and he didn't want the coronavirus epidemic to drag on, saying that he'd prefer "a brief, sharp pain rather than a long-lasting one".

But some customers were happy to dine in. One person who worked in a clinic said that he doesn't think the new measures will work, but won't buy a takeaway as he believes the restaurant is cleaner than the clinic.