TORONTO — COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continues to spread — as of March 11, more than 121,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, resulting in at least 4,000 deaths, globally.
Technomic, a U.S based information-collection agency, has shared statistics about the outbreak and its rapid takeover of mainstream media, reporting 66 per cent of people surveyed in the U.S. are following the COVID-19 story.
These numbers are creating a society-wide fear of travel and going out in general, resulting in stocks dropping across the board as businesses in every sector are impacted by not only the virus, but the fear it spreads with it.
Now more than ever, businesses — including many in the foodservice and hospitality sector —are feeling the economic squeeze. The foodservice industry has been hit hard by the virus, according to Technomic. Its data show more than three in 10 consumers say they plan on leaving the house less often, going to restaurants less often and even plan on ordering food-and-beverage delivery less often.
Among those respondents who said they wouldn’t go to restaurant as much as usual, 31 per cent said this decreased frequency of visits will last for up to three months.
Tim Hortons and Starbucks have banned reusable cups, while many small businesses have been forced to reduce hours and staff temporarily to cope with the drop in revenue associated with COVID-19.
In southwest B.C., three restaurants have reportedly been shut down due to the virus, including one in Vancouver and two in Richmond, while the Canadian Catering Association projects more closures on the horizon.
Earlier this week, a Starbucks location in Seattle was shuttered after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. This comes on the heels of Washington State cancelling all events with more than 1,000 people attending. Starbucks has also closed about 80 per cent of its stores in China — a move that could reportedly cost the chain upwards of $430 million in revenue — and is urging staff at its North-American locations to sanitize busy areas of the store as frequent as every eight minutes throughout the day.
In response to yesterday’s announcement of COVID-19 being labelled a global pandemic, the Canadian government has pledged $1-billion in economic support to help cope with the effects of the virus on everyone, including small businesses.
The action plan includes $50 million to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s COVID-19 communications and public-education efforts, $500 million for critical health-care systems, $275 million in research funding as well as enhancing the Work-Sharing program to help support employers and workers who are experiencing a downturn in business due to Covid-19.
“The fundamentals of the Canadian economy are strong. But we know COVID-19 is having an impact on global economic activity, and our strong fiscal position means we’re well-positioned to respond to any challenges. This announcement demonstrates that the government is ready to act to protect Canadians and ensure that our economy remains strong,” says The Hon. Bill Morneau, minister of Finance.
Despite all of this Technomic reports that 37 per cent of survey respondents said restaurants should remain open for business.