Nfld. & Labrador

No cheers: New COVID-19 outbreak deals another blow to hospitality industry

With bars closing down again, business leaders say they're ready to do their part to help contain the virus. A silver lining, they say: the closure comes at a lean time of the year.

Business leaders say they're supportive of tougher measures; will do their part to contain virus spread

Bars in the St. John's region, including those on George Street in St. John's, will close for at least two weeks, beginning at midnight on Tuesday. The closures are part of a special measures order by the chief medical officer health, in response to an outbreak of COVID-19. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

A troubling new outbreak of COVID-19 in the metro St. John's area means another setback for the battered hospitality industry, but business leaders say they're ready to do their part to help contain the virus.

"There's far-reaching impacts of the decision, but always for the right reasons," said Don-E Coady, spokesperson for the George Street Association, which represents 21 bars and restaurants in downtown St. John's.

Brenda O'Reilly, who chairs Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador's board of directors, agrees. 

"Right now I implore all businesses in tourism and hospitality to look to the protocols that the public health has put out there and to adhere to them and to enforce them to help get COVID-19 under control," she said. 

Coady and O'Reilly were responding to an expanded special measures order imposed Tuesday afternoon as Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced a spike in cases, likely associated with a cluster that involves a high school in Mount Pearl. 

30 new cases in a single day

The order required bars in the St. John's region to close their doors at midnight Tuesday, for at least two weeks, and for restaurants to reduce their capacity to 50 per cent.

Establishments that serve food and alcohol can remain open.

Brenda O'Reilly is the chair of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador's board of directors. (CBC)

The expanded measures are in response to 30 new cases reported Tuesday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 57. N.L. reported 11 cases on Monday. 

Tuesday's numbers represented the second-highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic, surpassed only by the 32 cases announced March 25 during the province's first wave.

Fitzgerald confirmed there is now community transmission in the area, and she expects more cases to be discovered in the coming days.

In an attempt to contain the outbreak, Fitzgerald announced a series of measures she described as a "circuit breaker."

WATCH | Here & Now's Peter Cowan and Carolyn Stokes find answers to some key questions about the changing COVID-19 situation: 

Your COVID-19 questions answered

1 year ago
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Peter Cowan breaks down some of the top questions that people are asking about the changing COVID-19 situation in Newfoundland and Labrador

For example, gatherings may not exceed 20 people, all group activities are suspended, and gyms and recreational facilities must close. Retail stores and malls can remain open, as well as personal service and animal grooming businesses.

After months of very low numbers of the virus, the situation has rapidly changed, and the level of anxiety and fear that was so common during the early days of the pandemic has returned for many.

Don-E Coady is the communications and marketing director of the George Street Association in St. John's. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

For the hospitality industry, it's another setback for a sector that has been struggling through unprecedented problems. 

If there's any upside for bars and restaurants, it's that the new measures come at a time when business is already lean because it's mid-winter, and many people were already staying away because of fear of the virus.

"It's sad to see any part of our sector close, but two weeks? Better the middle of February than the middle of July," said O'Reilly.

"All we want is to make sure that what has been happening can even out [and] for this to go away so everyone is front row centre to participate in every way possible to help make that happen," added Coady.

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