So much has been written and said about the Covid-19 pandemic that you hardly need me to add to the volumes.
What I want to say, though is to talk about what happens from now on.
I’ve seen so many stories and social media posts from small businesses doing their utmost to survive. Let’s face it, many won’t. It must be thoroughly heartbreaking for business owners to invest so much time, effort and money into a business only to see it destroyed by something out of their hands. I’ve witnessed it in the past – my father’s business brought to its knees by the recession of the ’90s. The company I used to work for destroyed by several events in Europe. The cost of this pandemic is going to destroy businesses, and as a result, we’ll all be feeling the pain for many years to come.
One early casualty I noticed was Aunt Lil’s who sold pretzels at Westfield Burwood. They sadly announced their permanent closure after 7 years in business.
Some stores have closed temporarily, such as Donut Papi in Redfern, hoping to bounce back when the coast has cleared.
Some are bravely fighting on, using social media more than ever to spread the word, and offers like free delivery.
You should also remember that for every cafe and restaurant, there are several small businesses who quietly supply them with the raw ingredients, who are now also struggling to make ends meet.
I hope the government’s assistance plans means most businesses won’t go to the wall.
One thing that should come from this is the way things are done henceforward.
I’m talking about the new way of looking at hygiene.
We’re currently in an exceptional state of social distancing and self-isolation. But when things are relaxed, I hope that certain businesses re-address the way they approach hygiene.
Lots of food businesses are re-assuring their customers that their hygiene protocols have been intensified. I’ve even seen some social media posts from food outlets explaining in detail what measures they are taking to ensure your food is safe – like wiping door handles and bench tops more regularly.
I saw a social media post with an image of a pretty young girl holding a tray of doughnuts. She wore rubber gloves. She sported a big wide open-mouthed smile. No mask. In a post telling me how careful they are, they showed me that they aren’t being careful enough. Boom – those doughnuts could be contaminated.
In a filmed post from another doughnut store about how carefully they are wiping things down and regularly sanitising, in the background was a large trolley of doughnuts sitting around, exposed. Boom – those doughnuts could be contaminated.
On the very afternoon that we went into a stricter lockdown, a local cafe had, as it usually does, the leftover pastries sitting on top of the counter with a ‘reduced’ sign on them. No cover. Nothing. Boom – those pastries could be contaminated.
We can all do everything we can to stem the tide of this virus, but clearly some people won’t be trying hard enough.
I wonder what stores like Bread Top are going to do to improve their unhygienic way of operating. What about the cafes and bakeries with exposed food sitting around uncovered? Food that is ready-to-eat. Places like Baker’s Delight, where unwrapped loaves and rolls of bread sit on racks behind the staff, who grab one with a piece of tissue paper when you point out which one you want. All those artisan bread stores who happily display their bread unwrapped and exposed. The Vietnamese bakeries and the ones that sell those delicious pork rolls. The bread is almost always uncovered. That food cannot be sanitised. It goes straight from their store into our mouths. Who knows what invisible nasties the food is covered in?
What about the market stalls with food on the table between you and the stall holder? Everyone is reaching across the food, speaking, exchanging money, laughing, coughing, spitting, sneezing…
Surely these things will have to change. Everyone’s sensitivity about hygiene will be heightened. When this mess is over, are people still going to be happy buying food that is unwrapped and exposed to people’s germs?
I don’t for a minute believe that every food outlet is going to sharpen the way they do things. When it’s a decision to save money or buy rubber gloves, face masks, food wrapping and protective storage, I know some places won’t make the right one. As my environmentally conscious daughter says, this virus is going to be dreadful on the environment. She’s absolutely right. It’s yet another cost of this problem that we’ll be paying for many years to come.
The last thing I will say here is just to remind you that this virus began with one person. It now affects every man, woman and child on the planet and will for some time.
Things need to change permanently.