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Scottish barber living in Shanghai shares Coronavirus experience

Last issue we interviewed Anna Elliot (@_aelliott), who owns Doc Guthrie’s Barbershops, a two shop business in Shanghai, China. Just weeks after the magazine released the story broke a new virus in Wuhan. Shanghai is 500 miles from Wuhan, ground zero for Coronavirus. At the time of going to press the UK has not experienced the kind of disruption that Anna and her team have endured. Here she shares her experience “When the virus started in China, it took only a few weeks for the virus itself to spread from the epicentre to various other parts of the country. Right away, we were advised by the local government to wash hands and wear a face mask. Within a matter of days, they started closing schools and advising businesses to close all across the country. It was crazy. At the time, Shanghai had only around 300 cases. Then, the government actually enforced the closure of all non-essential businesses, including both my barber shops that I have owned here for the last five years. We were forced to close for an additional two weeks after the Chinese New Year holiday, in total about four weeks. That meant four weeks without any revenue and 20 odd staff members to pay, along with the rent of two shops. Needless to say we had to ask our staff to take unpaid leave and as a result lost three barbers and one receptionist, who couldn’t afford to wait for their salary as our staff are paid a fixed monthly salary. Now the number of cases is slowing down we are back open but due to regular checks by the Government, all staff must wear a face mask in the shop. We use the basic surgical ones. Every customer must fill in their name and recent travel information, when they enter, along with a thermometer gun to the head and wrist to check their temperature and make sure they don’t have a fever. If they read too high, we can’t let them in. So, slowly we are building back up and managing to pay salaries in small amounts every week but schools are still closed and it will be a long time before things are back to normal. It’s been a real hit financially and emotionally.”

Here Anna shares her tips on how to keep yourself, your customers and your community as safe as possible.

  • Don’t be alarmed if your customer wants to keep their mask on. It’s for their comfort. It can be difficult to do a haircut around one but it can be done. An alternative would be to have your own mask and that way, if they take theirs off, they will feel comfortable because you are wearing one. One or other of you should be wearing a mask. We are in close contact for at least 20-30mins so plenty of time for germs to pass around.
  • Don’t shake customers hands when you greet them. Or if you do, be sure to use hand sanitizer directly after and ask them to also.
  • Take the temperature of your customers. The gun ones are not intrusive and can also be used on the wrist.
  • Keep hand sanitizer and tissues out and available for everyone.
  • Don’t use an open blade on the face. So, no shaves or wet beard trims. Use a foil shaver instead. Open wounds are very susceptible to infection even if it’s just a small blood spot and if your customer is wearing a mask after shaving, the chance of infection is even higher and that could also come back to haunt you if they decide to blame it on you or your shop’s hygiene. Hot towels can also be a hot bed for bacteria if not dealt with properly.

Anna says “Everyone will have to make sacrifices to prevent this from spreading and small sacrifices are better than having to sacrifice your whole business because this gets out of control and forces shops to close for good.” Stay safe, everyone!