On 12 April 2021, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a preliminary road map for the easing of social distancing regulations for restaurants and inbound travellers in a bid to encourage higher uptake of vaccinations. At the time of writing, only 10 per cent of Hong Kong’s population have been vaccinated, a figure far behind the target of 70 per cent to achieve herd immunity. The new proposed rules targeting the restaurant industry are set into three stages, with varying levels of social distancing dependent on how many staff and customers have been vaccinated; restaurants that adhere to the lowest tier, where all staff have received at least one vaccine dose, will be able to seat up to six people per table and operate until midnight. The government have also doubled down on mandating restaurants use the LeaveHomeSafe app rather than offering a paper form option. In The Industry’s first op-ed, chef-owner Shane Osborn from Arcane and Cornerstone lays his thoughts bare about the proposed regulations.
As an industry, we've been in crisis mode for two years already. Our city’s reputation for world class food at all price points has been a draw card for international tourists for decades. However, with the hope of borders opening soon and many foodie tourists potentially hitting our shores, the government needs to offer better support our restaurants and bars so that we can deliver on our promise of being Asia’s world city.
I don't think we're expecting things to get back to 100 per cent capacity immediately, so some of the new rules and regulations that are coming in about opening seems to be more punishing than encouraging—it’s more stick than carrot. The majority of our staff are getting vaccinated, and it’s a very high uptake—about 90 per cent are already vaccinated so, for us, we already have herd immunity within the business. Out of all our employees, those who won't be getting vaccinated are because they've been advised by doctors not to, due to their underlying health issues.
I'm trying to promote vaccination as much as possible. My family got the virus seven weeks ago in France, all of them. My wife suffered quite badly and still does, seven weeks afterwards. She's got long Covid, and it's the worst she's ever felt in her life. I think once this virus really touches you personally, it really cements the idea that vaccination is the only way through this. We are a successful restaurant because everybody who works here contributes to the success of the business. So it's the same with the vaccine: we work as a team, we work as a community.
Some of the new rules and regulations that are coming in about opening seems to be more punishing than encouraging—it’s more stick than carrot
Governments all around the world keep talking about herd immunity, whether that's 60 to 70 per cent or 80 per cent of the community being vaccinated. If that is the goal within the community, then why can't you have that within restaurants as well? Meanwhile, the government's new regulations are demanding that you must have a 100 per cent vaccination rate, which I think is unachievable. Perhaps there are some businesses that'll achieve that, but they will be a minority. I don't think restaurants should be penalised just because they can't force all of their staff to get vaccinated. We are in the hospitality industry—it's all about trust and respect. Of course, I do want everybody to be vaccinated, for their safety and their family’s safety. But personally, I think it’s unfair to let someone go if they decide not to get the vaccine.