Drastic measures have been introduced in Europe to try and contain the coronavirus. In the Netherlands, authorities had banned events of more than 100 people. People have been asked to work from home, if possible. Universities and colleges have been asked to offer online lessons instead of lectures. All schools across the country have since been closed too.
All bars, clubs, and restaurants had to close their doors at 18:00 yesterday too. They have been asked to remain so until 6 April. Belgium implemented this ban on Friday already. There, hospitality concerns have to stay closed until 3 April. The Knokke-Heist municipality there has gone a step further. It has imposed restrictions on these businesses until the end of April.
These rules have a huge impact on a country's economy. The hospitality and tourism industries are especially hard hit. They have noticed this at Flexivers. This is a Dutch wholesale company that supplies hotels, restaurants, and catering businesses. "By all indications, it was to have been a great year for the hospitality sector," says Rudolf Sluimer of Flexivers.
"But, in recent days, we are getting many cancelled orders. These are from our clients in the hospitality sector - all due to this coronavirus. We supply many businesses in Belgium and (the Dutch province of) North Brabant. And these two regions are places where the strictest measures are being implemented. Our sales have dropped by 50% there.”
It is mostly the larger companies that are running into trouble. "The smaller places are doing reasonably well. There are some issues, but none that are very noticeable. It is mainly the large caterers that are ordering less now. We, for example, supply several large companies with more than 100 employees."
"They started taking less straight away if a lot of their people are working from home. These caterers are cancelling in droves." Meanwhile, at supermarkets, it is business as usual."We are still also supplying the care facilities. That is carrying on as normal."
At Flexivers, they also have to adapt to these new circumstances. "I stopped by the night team last week to inform them of the latest developments. We have had tighter protocols from when the first reports of the coronavirus already. This includes hand sanitisers for our drivers. There are strict restrictions on staff in, for example, the warehouse too. Work stations at our company are also cleaned twice as much as usual. We have also been strict about hygiene - we work with food, after all. But now, we have become even stricter."
“The future remains uncertain at the moment. We do not know what it holds. We had a crisis in 2008, but that was far better controlled than this one. It was, however, striking that many products were still available on markets for a long time, like lettuce from Italy. But, we did get a report last week that the total Italian fruit and vegetable package will be delayed. Events are, therefore, unfolding quickly," Rudolf concludes.