Central Albertans should go out and enjoy their favourite meals, because health standards remain high, and the risk of contracting the coronavirus is still low, says a national organization representing eateries.
“As far as the confidence of the public going out to eat in restaurants, there’s very minimal risk they’re going to contract the virus,” said Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president for Western Canada at Restaurants Canada.
“We have not received any specific recommendations from the health authorities on changing procedures. We’re already required to adhere to very strict health and safety standards.”
On Wednesday, Alberta Health Services announced five new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Alberta, bringing the total to 19. Roughly 103 Canadians have tested positive.
Von Schellwitz said running a restaurant in Alberta was already difficult. Average profit margins were really low after several years of significant labour costs, combined with declining sales during the economic downturn.
Owners hoped they were finally turning a corner, then the coronavirus struck.
“We’ll hopefully get through this in the next few months, but it certainly is another blow to an already struggling industry in Alberta,” von Schellwitz said.
He said Restaurants Canada recognizes this public health situation is very fluid and monitoring continues. But people should be cognizant of the realities, rather than all the fears that sometimes spread.
“(The restaurant industry) is an important industry, an $11-billion industry. We employ roughly 150,000 Albertans. Naturally our members are concerned about the impact.
“Ultimately, according to Canadian Health Authorities, the risks associated with COVID-19, is still very low in Canada.”
The suspension of the NHL announced on Thursday will be an additional challenge for the sector of the industry focused on sports events to drive traffic, Von Schellwitz added.
Rick More, Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce CEO, said central Alberta’s business community has been pulling together during these difficult economic times.
“We’ve actually grown. We had a record January with 21 new members. That’s very gratifying. I don’t know if you can find tougher times,” More said.
The chamber now has 840 members.
He said this isn’t the first time for the coronavirus, and it won’t be the last.
“Pandemics are serious situations. We need clear facts and direction, that’s what’s important. We have people trained who can give us advice. Let’s take the orders and follow them.”