How the Delta variant is making this a very different lockdown for Canberra’s hospitality industry

 In Home News Section, Uncategorized

With the ACT in lockdown once again, Canberra businesses have been hit hard by the change whether they are considered essential or not.

Last year, in the early months of the pandemic, the option of takeaway was freely taken up across the city.

This time, many have decided the risk is too great due to the highly infectious Delta variant now in the community.

For others, there has been no option as staff have entered quarantine, having been to one of the more than 190 exposure sites listed so far in the ACT.

There are more than 10,000 people in quarantine, and 67 active cases of the virus recorded so far.

And with exposure locations around Canberra including bars and nightclubs, a large number of young people have been affected this time around, taking a toll on the hospitality workforce.

‘We can’t do our work from home’

Yesterday, it was confirmed the median age of those infected in the ACT is 19.5, revealing how the current outbreak is targeting the community.

Dash Rumble, the co-owner of Ainslie restaurant Pilot, was forced to close after a staff member was identified as a close contact.

The Ainslie restaurant stayed open for takeaway initially, intending to deliver food to those stuck at home.

She said they were now waiting for the results of the staff member’s test to see if they could open ahead of the weekend.

“For the safety of our community we are heading into quarantine while we await test results,” they said.

“For anyone that has placed an order this evening, we will be in touch soon to refund your dinner.”

They were faced with the added challenge of managing a team of mostly younger staff members.

“It is proving slightly difficult. Most of our staff are part-time or full-time [workers], so kind of reorganising hours and stuff like that was a little bit difficult,” she said.

“We’ve had a few people at short notice that we’ve had to take off the roster. It definitely is keeping us on our toes.”

Her co-owner, Ross McQuinn, said it was hard to be in the hospitality industry as the outbreak worsened.

“We can’t do our work from home, and so there are things we have to balance. For example, if a staff member isn’t comfortable coming into work… then we have to respect that,” he said.

“Balancing the health needs of not just our staff members but also the whole community, but also we are trying to run a business and trying to not let that business fail.

“[It’s] one we hope we’re finding the balance of.”

He said they were also calling on the ACT government to extend support payments beyond the lockdown, and had been doing so before the outbreak was detected last week.

“Canberra is a food and beverage destination,” he said.

“We were seeing reduced trade regardless, and the attitude of the government was, ‘well, consider yourself lucky that you’re open.'”

While Pilot has decided to reopen once its staff member has tested negative, others made the choice early on to close entirely.

For some, it was a matter of saying safe amid a growing outbreak of COVID-19.

Doubleshot Deakin was one such business, announcing they would close for the duration of the lockdown.

 

“The risk is now real. The virus is clearly in the community and has popped up virtually all over Canberra. It is a more contagious strand and therefore more likely to spread faster,” they posted.

 

Similarly, Barrio in Braddon shut down when the first case was announced, and said they would not be serving takeaway.

“We are fortunate to be in a position to make this call and we feel like it is the right thing to do,” they said in an Instagram post.

On Tuesday, AKIBA closed its doors “to ensure that all of our teams are safe and COVID-free.”

“We’re all going to do the right thing and follow testing guidelines and we aim to be bringing some #akibalove back into your homes by the weekend,” they wrote on Facebook.

Free meals fill the void

And as supermarkets across Canberra scramble to be able to supply grocery deliveries to the many thousands in quarantine, others have joined in to help by picking up the slack.

Garry Malhotra has set up a service supplying free meals to people around the city to ease the financial burden.

He and his team have been inundated with requests for food.

“I was expecting there would be around 20, 50 needy people who’ll ask for something but now we’re getting around 2,000 requests a day,” he said.

“At the moment, six of us are cooking, packing and delivering around Canberra, still doing like 2,000 serves a day. But now I think tomorrow it’s going to be around 5,000 serves a day.”

Mr Malhotra, who runs a business teaching people to cook, said he was now using those faciities to prepare meals for people in lockdown along with six volunteers.

He said he did not want the financial donations people had offered him.

“Once I run out of my savings, I’ll ask the community to come forward and help me with the groceries,” he said.

“This is the time where Canberrans need to support each other. So please come forward and support each other.”

By Niki Burnside and Charlotte Gore (Original ABC Article)