HK bathhouses prepare to reopen after Covid-19 shutdown, as industry boss calls latest round of government subsidies ‘meaningless’

18-Sep-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Bathhouses in Hong Kong have ramped up hygiene measures ahead of reopening this week, after being forced to close for about four months by the coronavirus and losing millions of dollars as a result.

Chow Chun-yu, president of the Hong Kong Licensed Massage Association, said the industry had breathed a sigh of relief on learning they could reopen on Friday with limited services, and emphasized that operators were making hygiene their top priority.

“Bathhouses were asked to close for a total of 127 days because of the coronavirus, that’s roughly four months, and it has severely hit our businesses,” he said.

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About 50 commercial bathhouses with facilities such as jacuzzis and pools can reopen, but saunas and steam rooms must remain closed after the government eased its social-distancing measures.

With the number of Covid-19 cases dropping in recent weeks the government has been gradually relaxing the rules, which had included shutting a wide range of businesses. Beauty salons were allowed to reopen three weeks ago, followed by massage parlours a week later.

Despite welcoming the return of customers, Chow said the reduction in the amount of money that businesses in his industry would receive from the government meant “the subsidy is meaningless”.

The latest round of support for bathhouses has been halved to HK$50,000 (US$6,450) for eligible establishments.

Chow said the aid was barely enough to cover basic costs, such as maintenance fees and added sanitation expenses.

“It’s like saving a burning car with just a cup of water,” he said.

Wendy Wong Hung-ying, who runs the Fortress Hill branch of Windsor Spa, said the location had suffered “several million dollars in losses”, and expected business would only resume to about 20 to 30 per cent of normal.

“The impact on our business has been significant since January when fears of the coronavirus first started,” Wong said. “Our revenue already fell by 80 per cent back then.”

She said about 40 customers had booked a treatment for Friday, and estimated each person would spend between HK$400 and HK$1,000 during their visit.

She said pool water would be changed three times a day and purification tablets would be used, while the pool would also be scrubbed down with bleach at the end of the day.

The added costs would see the spa spend HK$12,000 each time they deep cleaned the facilities using UV disinfectants.

Only half of the shower stalls would be in use and about five to six people would be using the pool at a time. Masseuses would also wear face masks, gloves, face shields, hairnets and protective gowns for massage treatments, and would change their gear after servicing each customer.

Guests would be asked to have their temperature taken, and sign a health declaration form at reception, while customers were also encouraged to show a negative coronavirus test result if they had one.


Category: Hong Kong

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