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Beauty and massage parlors to be shut from Friday to stop Covid spread

08 April 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Massage and beauty parlors are the latest types of businesses that will close as part of anti-virus measures

For the past 25 years, Christine Cometa has run her beauty salon in one of Central’s alleys, a veritable hub of small Filipino businesses, from beauty and massage parlors, to food joints, computer centers and karaoke bars.

This Friday, Apr 10, Christine Hair and Beauty Salon will be shut for the first time, in line with new government measures to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

It’a tough time for Cometa, as she, like all of the proprietors in the alleys favored by Filipino migrant workers out for a bit of fun and relaxation, are already struggling with the fallout from six months of rowdy anti-government protests last year.
“Naubos ang ipon ko,” she says of that time when her customers shunned going to that part of Central where many of the trouble-plagued protests were staged on an almost daily basis in the last half of 2019.

Before the twin whammy, Christine’s salon would always be filled with customers. On Sundays, when most migrant workers are off work, her shop would be so jampacked that it was almost impossible for her and several assistants to take a meal break.

Nowadays, she says she’s lucky to have 15 customers walking in each day. And even then, most would just pop in for basic services like a haircut and manicure. Only a few still find time for a bit of pampering, like getting their hair colored, crimped, or straightened.

Cometa will be closing her parlor for the first time in 25 years
After learning that there are only two days left before she is forced to close down her shop, she tried asking her landlord for a discount on her rent, but was turned down, the excuse being that everybody is feeling the pinch from the contagion.

“Paano na kami ngayon?,” Christine asks, a question that is uppermost in the minds of many business owners in Hong Kong nowadays.
Beauty centers, along with massage parlors, are just the latest businesses to be shut to curb the local transmission of the virus.

Earlier, other establishments that attract large crowds like cinemas, party halls, amusement centers, gyms, pubs and bars and karaoke lounges, were also closed.

Most of the recent cases of Covid-19 infections involve residents arriving from abroad, but there has also been a number of local infections traced to pubs, a party hall, a wedding banquet, and most recently, karaoke bars.
Included in today’s list of new cases in Hong Kong are three more linked to the group that gathered at Neway karaoke lounge in Causeway Bay, most of them staff of Marks & Spencer’s Food chain. A total of 10 infections have been traced to that group.

Also included is a staff of Dusk Till Dawn bar in Wanchai. This so-called bar cluster, which involves musicians, staff and patrons of this and three other bars across Wanchai, Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, have resulted in more than 90 infections.

Beauty parlors have not been spared, as three recent cases were traced to two different salons in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui.

The only businesses that have so far been kept open are restaurants, although they have been subjected to strict restrictions on social distancing. Those with a bar where only alcoholic drinks are served, should also close that part of their premises.

Inside the restaurants, no more than four customers could sit at each table, which should be at least 1.5 meters apart. Everyone who enters the restaurants should wear a mask, and have their body temperature taken. Hand sanitizers should also be made available to customers.

Violators face a maximum fine of $50,000 and six months’ imprisonment.

The mandatory closure of beauty and massage parlors is due to last for 14 days, or until Apr 23. All the other businesses ordered shut will likewise reopen on that date, after the government decided to close them down a little bit longer.

But there’s a bit of relief on sight, after Chief Executive Carrie Lam unveiled a massive $138 billion relief program today. The scheme will allow an estimated 1.5 million workers in the affected businesses to get half, or up to $9,000 of their salary, from government coffers.

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