A Christmas lunch held in Malaga in 2019.

Covid fears prompt cancellations of company Christmas celebrations

Bars and restaurants in Malaga acknowledge an increase in lost bookings due to the increase in coronavirus infections and the concerns of some businesses

JUAN SOTO

The fear of a massive spread of Covid infections has once again crept into the Christmas celebrations. Despite the good forecasts that the hospitality sector held for this end of the year, the constant increase in coronavirus cases in recent days has forced many companies to rethink their plans for the traditional festive meal for workers.

The alarm was sounded this week by the president of the Malaga hostelry trades federation (Mahos), Javier Frutos, who highlighted the sector's concern over this new setback. "Cancellations are increasing and the worry is that it that they are being cancelled from one day to the next," he said.

Frutos explained that most of the cancellations are of company celebrations, rather than large gatherings of friends or families. He detailed that the bulk of the cancellations have happened since last weekend and at a time when most of the bars and restaurants had reported they were fully booked.

Professionals in the hospitality sector acknowledge that many employers are afraid that their staff could be infected with a direct impact on the performance their business.

This fear has been sparked by the incessant increase in Covid infections – on Thursday (16 December) the incidence rate grew some 30.6 in Malaga to stand at 312.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – and news of the massive coronavirus outbreak among hospital workers at the Regional Hospital, which forced the health authorities to hire extra staff.

"The Christmas celebrations are being cancelled because people are afraid," said José Gómez, the head of four restaurants in Malaga city and two in Torremolinos. “The very big groups have all been lost; at most we have tables of 20 or 30 people," he added. The owner of the La Reserva group admitted that on Thursday they should have entertained a party of 300 guests, but "nobody wants to risk it".

Hospital outbreak

The businessman believes that the Covid outbreak among health professionals at Malaga's Regional Hospital, which resulted in a hundred infections, has done a lot of damage because it occurred at the beginning of Christmas and no company wants to be hit.

Another place where they have also noticed an increase in cancellations is in El Balneario in Malaga city. Business owner Damián Caneda added that on many occasions cancellations are also due to the fact that a worker has tested positive and no one wants to to take a risk.

"The Christmas functions paid for by companies have been cancelled. This Friday we were fully booked and now we hope that the cancellations can be covered with people passing through," he said.

The Junta calls for care

Spokesperson for the Andalusian Government, Elías Bendodo, called on Thursday for the public to act "responsibly" during the celebration of lunches, dinners and other events over Christmas, following the increase in coronavirus infections in the region.

Although he said he was not in favour of suspending these celebrations, Bendodo considered that they should be carried out maintaining a series of basic measures such as limiting capacity, holding them in open spaces and keeping a safe social distance. "But I am not saying that company meals or lunches should be suspended," he insisted.