|Coronavirus - Empty Shelves, Cancellations and Business Impact in Ealing|
Council says it has ' robust procedures' in place on how to respond to emergencies
Toilet roll and pasta are the top items being snatched off the shelves if you take a trip to Morrisons in Ealing Broadway.
“I’ve never, never seen anything like this,” fresh food manager Farhan Ibrahim says.
“It has just been crazy for the last couple of days really just stockpiling.”
Ealing now has five confirmed cases in the area, out of a total 61 across the capital.
Public Health England advice continues to urge Londoners to wash their hands but also suggests to “plan ahead” in case self-isolation will be necessary.
And it appears shoppers are doing just that.
Walking around Morrisons, the supermarket boss shows how just kitchen roll is left down one of the aisles, and all the pasta has gone. A customer services colleague also tells the BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service that out of two pallets of toilet roll being put at the front of the outlet that morning, one batch has already gone.
But unlike Tesco announcing limits on how many essential items customers can buy, Morrisons has so far avoided special measures.
“We haven’t had anything from head office on that basis…if it gets worse and worse I think the company might need to have a think about it,” Mr Ibrahim adds.
Staff are encouraged to wear gloves and masks if they wish and wash their hands often, but Mr Ibrahim is confident it will “calm down” soon.
“I think this a bit extreme all this going on, if you are going to get it you are going to get it,” he adds.
While supermarket giants may be receiving a boost, for smaller high street businesses some are feeling the pinch.
Siva Rupan, a supervisor at bags and suitcases store, Charlotte Reid London, says the shop is seeing its lowest sales in history.
“It is so dead. We have been thinking to close, people are not coming especially to a shop like this with mostly Chinese products,” he says.
“Customers come in and say first ‘where are your products from’? [We say] ‘made in China’, and they make a u-turn.”
The 38-year-old says the business may begin making a loss when profits are so low, largely due to high business rates for its prime high street location
“I’m just working here but all I know from the boss is disaster is happening. We are making the lowest history in sales. Yesterday was even lower, I hope it will be better today,” he adds.
“Let’s see how it is going, let’s hope for the best.”
Meanwhile Uxbridge Road restaurant Thai Canteen is also seeing a drop in numbers during the day where they usually expect office workers on their lunch break.
And in the evenings they’ve seen the usual turn out of 10-15 tables slashed to one or two.
Manager Vissanee Laowanit said: “I think people are scared to come out…I think most of it is because of the virus, but part of it is the weather.”
The 27-year-old says the eatery has run out of the hand sanitiser it was putting out for customers, and even though she would consider taking time off during the outbreak they were already low on staff at the business.
She adds: “If it becomes really quiet, we probably could close it [the restaurant] for a while.”
British Kebab Awards category winner, Ali’s Berlin Doner, is also noticing slow trade. But worker Hamoon Naimi isn’t convinced it is just to do with coronavirus.
The Hanger Lane resident says post-Christmas is always quiet and Brexit could also be playing a part.
“If you ask the businesses round here it’s just quiet. After Christmas it gets very quiet, it usually picks up in March but it is just worse now in March.”
He wears gloves as he works behind the counter and says the Turkish outlet is taking extra precautions against coronavirus of spraying down the chairs, tables and surfaces every hour.
“It is the first time a situation like this, it is going to get worse,” he adds.
The 32-year-old from Iran says he is more careful because of what he has seen happening in his home country.
The capital Tehran, where his parents still live, has seen the highest number of cases in the Middle Eastern nation where officially more than 6,500 diagnoses have been reported.
“The situation is very scary, it is very bad…We are more careful, because I’ve seen the news in Iran because of that,” he says.
Off the high street, Ealing Business Expo which was due to go ahead between March 23 to 24 has now been postponed until September to avoid spreading the deadly virus.
Announcing the change on LinkedIn, Expo director Carlene Bender said the risk was “too great” for the local business community to take.
She said: “With the outbreak of the coronavirus in London and its expected spread across the city, we could see that the fears about the disease would be likely to peak just for when our Expo was set which would be sure to reduce attendance to such a degree as to make the event almost a waste of time and investment.
But it’s not all bad news. Prince Arthur pub tenant Maurice Kelly assures us that people are still very happy to grab a beer.
“We had a very good weekend. No big issues, people talk about it but no concerns or negative feedback,” the 56-year-old explains.
“We have hand sanitisers in the toilets if people want to use them. We spoke to staff, if they have any issues they speak to me.”
“I think just common sense prevails.”
Ealing Council is advising businesses to come up with resilience plans, follow government advice and Public Health England guidelines on hygiene and the disease.
An Ealing Council spokesperson added “The council has robust procedures in place on how to respond to emergencies, including flu. These are regularly updated and tested, with input from Public Health England.”
Anahita Hossein-Pour, Local Democracy Reporter
Latest Figures (from Gov.Uk)
March 10 2020