Restaurant boss begs diners to keep eating out as restaurants face virus crisis – Daily Mail

Restaurant News

Vauxhall closes two UK factories with 2,560 staff due to coronavirus as restaurant bookings plummet 75 per cent, sports ban hits bookies’ profits and self-employed couriers attack ‘paltry’ sick pay

  • Masterchef winner Simon Wood says crisis is hitting restaurants in Manchester 
  • Comes after Chinese eateries in Berkshire and London reported downturn 
  • Betting industry suffering from Premier League ban until at least next month
  • Unions have slammed Hermes and DPD for sick pay offered to their drivers  
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Vauxhall is closing its UK factories due to cornavirus as restaurant bookings plummet 75 per cent, a sports ban hits bookies’ profits and self-employed couriers attack ‘paltry’ sick pay. 

As the UK recorded its 36th death from Covid-19, vehicle manufacturer PSA Group announced the closure of all its European plants until March 27. This includes the Vauxhall factories in Ellesmere Port and Luton.

PSA Group said in a statement: ‘Due to the acceleration observed in recent days of serious Covid-19 cases close to certain production sites, supply disruptions from major suppliers, as well as the sudden decline in the automobile markets, the chairman of the executive board with the members of the crisis unit decided the principle of the closure of the vehicle production sites.’

Pictured: A worker at the Vauxhall factory in Ellesmere Port as it closes amid the Covid-19 crisis

Pictured: A worker at the Vauxhall factory in Ellesmere Port as it closes amid the Covid-19 crisis  

Vauxhall will be closing it's facotry in Ellesmere Port (pictured) and Luton due to coronavirus

Vauxhall will be closing it’s facotry in Ellesmere Port (pictured) and Luton due to coronavirus

It came after restaurant boss Simon Wood revealed he’s already noticing how hard the crisis is hitting his industry.

The chef-patron of Wood in Manchester fears for the coming months and said that as soon as a Covid-19 case hit the city it sparked a downturn.

The 2015 MasterChef winner Simon Wood (pictured) fears for his restaurant and the wider industry as coronavirus panic sweeps the country

The 2015 MasterChef winner Simon Wood (pictured) fears for his restaurant and the wider industry as coronavirus panic sweeps the country

‘I am quietly worried, looking ahead,’ he told the Manchester Evening News. ‘We just need some more bums on seats, we just need people not to be afraid and to come out for dinner!’

The city’s first diagnosis hit on March 4 and the UK has now seen 1,372 cases and 35 deaths.

Mr Wood says that he hopes to stimulate local industry by reassuring the public that his staff have brought in an even stricter hygiene regime than usual. 

Meanwhile, nearby gin bar Three Little Words says reservations are dropping and it is preparing to support staff who need to self-isolate. 

In Leytonstone, East London, coffee shop Perky Blenders has placed a notice warning customers they are no longer accepting cash as fears of contamination are rife.

Closures are feared throughout the industry, and it isn’t the only one to be hit hard by the crisis. 

The firm behind Paddy Power and Betfair has warned it faces an ‘unprecedented’ challenge as sports matches and leagues are cancelled because of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Wood (pictured) in Manchester is fearful that the downturn will hit it even harder as the crisis continues to unfold across the world

Wood (pictured) in Manchester is fearful that the downturn will hit it even harder as the crisis continues to unfold across the world 

Pictured: A sign at the Perky Blenders coffee shop in Leytonstone, East London, warning customers the business won't be accepting cash

Pictured: A sign at the Perky Blenders coffee shop in Leytonstone, East London, warning customers the business won’t be accepting cash 

Coronavirus hysteria in Europe continued today on as Poland’s shut frontiers cause huge traffic jams in Germany and Ukraine – while Serbia and Slovakia went into lockdown and Portugal closed its border with Spain

Flutter Entertainment, which gets nearly 80 per cent of its revenue from bets on sporting events, said its accounts will be seriously dented.

All Premier League football games have been postponed in England until the beginning of next month, while the major leagues in Spain, Italy, France and Germany have been indefinitely suspended. 

A man wears a ventilator mask and rubber gloves as he waits for a friend at Euston Station in London. Others are seen on their phones and waiting outside the station

A man wears a ventilator mask and rubber gloves as he waits for a friend at Euston Station in London. Others are seen on their phones and waiting outside the station

Horse racing is continuing, although behind closed doors in places, but many major sports have been suspended in the US. The European football championships, Euro 2020, are also likely to be postponed, Flutter said.

‘This will obviously have a material impact on the revenue and earnings of the group,’ it said in a statement to shareholders on Monday.

Chief executive Peter Jackson said: ‘The challenge currently facing our business and the industry more widely is unprecedented in modern times.

‘Our focus, first and foremost, is on protecting the welfare of our employees and our customers and we will leave nothing to chance in this regard.’

A man in Manchester city centre appears to wear protective gear during the crisis

Pictured: A man in Manchester city centre appears to wear protective gear during the crisis

As it does not know when the regular sports schedule will start up again, and which other sports might decide to follow suit, Flutter said it is difficult to gauge the financial impact.

But if restrictions are still in place until the end of August, and Euro 2020 is cancelled, full-year ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) will take a £90 to £110 million hit.

If horse racing fixtures are cancelled as well, and its UK and Ireland betting shops are forced to close, this could cost the company another £30 million per month in ebitda. Analysts at Jefferies had previously expected ebitda to reach £428 million in 2020.

Train passengers ‘down by a fifth last week’ 

Train passenger numbers slumped by a fifth last week as coronavirus panic took hold. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there had been an 17 per cent – 20 per cent drop off in the volume of passengers last week, as Britons reacted to the 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme services would be maintained, but added there is no point running ‘ghost trains’. 

‘The railways have definitely seen a big drop off … last week by about 18-20% in the number of passengers and we’re working with them closely,’ he said. 

Mr Jackson said: ‘While our near-term profitability will be impacted by the essential measures being taken globally, the board will remain focused on protecting shareholder value and managing the business through these turbulent times.’ 

Business owners based in Chinatowns across London, Birmingham and Manchester are reporting takings are down a whopping 75 per cent since the outbreak began.

As a result several restaurants and takeaways have been closed down, while others are axing staff in a bid to cover costs.

Staff members have also reported being racially abused by customers shortly before the Chinatown areas of their cities turned into ghost towns.

Managers of the affected restaurants are now trying to reassure the public they cannot catch COVID-19 from Chinese food as they battle to save their businesses.

James Wong, 45, is the managing director of the Chung Ying Restaurant group in Birmingham and chairman of Southside Business Improvement District.

He said: ‘I’ve seen takings in my Chinese businesses dropping 70-75 per cent. We are crying out for support after being one of the hardest hit sectors for five weeks.

A man is pictured entering a coronavirus testing centre in London as the crisis continues to grip the country

A man is pictured entering a coronavirus testing centre in London as the crisis continues to grip the country 

‘At this moment in time I beg people to keep a sense of perspective – you won’t get coronavirus from Chinese food.

‘Certain places in Chinatown have been affected really badly because it’s been a ghost town for five weeks. We need to stick together and ride it out for the long term.

‘I’m meeting the representatives from the Combined Authority to get clarification on what measures are available to the hospitality sector.

‘This week with the government’s announcements the effect has started to really hit home for my businesses.

Members of the public spotted today on the tube as the deaths from the pandemic increased today

Members of the public spotted today on the tube as the deaths from the pandemic increased today 

‘So far I haven’t laid off staff or reduced hours like my rivals have done, but this week I have to think about some hard decisions.

‘I told my staff we can’t wear face masks because we will scare everybody away, but I said if you feel uncomfortable you can stay at home. In London’s Chinatown four or five restaurants are now closed.

‘On Chinese social media people are sending out fear messages and even spreading fake news, which is not helping. I don’t want to say how much I’ve lost but it’s a big amount.

‘I’m quite frustrated because I’ve got 70-80 staff who are reliant on me to provide for their families but this affects my family as well.

‘I’m trying my best to get people to come out, calm down and give moral support to Chinese businesses.’

Meanwhile, couriers for DPD, who deliver parcels for including Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, is offering just £94.25 a week to self-employed workers who need to self-isolate.

The statutory sick pay is far shorter than the £550 drivers with employment status are meant to earn over the course of a week. 

Hermes will only pay £20 a day to drivers if they need to self-isolate and only if they usually earn less than £90 a day, the Guardian reports.

Unions have attacked ‘paltry’ offers of sick pay as they warned that it could keep them working rather than taking sick pay. 


What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’. 

Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.


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