Speaking to The Morning Advertiser’s (MA) sister title MCA Insight, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said that the UK – which has distributed more than 10m doses of Covid-19 vaccines – was “effectively in the same position” as it was in February 2020 in its ability to predict next steps for hospitality businesses, and while in 2020 all eyes were on China, now “all eyes are on Israel”.
“They are the only country ahead of us in the world in terms of their mass vaccination,” she told MCA’s weekly update service The Conversation on 2 February. “It’s a watching and waiting game.”
It’s been widely reported that Covid-19 cases and related hospital admissions in Israel are falling steeply among inoculated age groups in what has been interpreted as the first clear indication that mass vaccine rollouts are preventing illness.
According to reports by the BBC, Israel had on 1 February administered more than 54 doses per 100 residents – compared to just over 14 in the UK – while more than three quarters (78%) of the those over 60 had received two doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine by 4 February.
This in tandem with the country having been in lockdown since 8 January has seen daily case rates among the over 60’s almost halved (46%) compared their mid-January peak, while an 18% drop has been recorded among those under 60 according to analysis by a team from the Weizmann Institute of Science at Tel Aviv University reported in The Financial Times.
However despite the successful rollout and suggestions that their reopening plans will be watched with worldwide interest, one bar operator in Tel Aviv told The MA that “there is not even a shred of guidance” as to what will happen to Israel’s hospitality sector once Covid jabs have been successfully distributed.
‘No official contact’
Lion Krakover, who has run Sputnik bar for five years, explains that his business is currently “completely closed”, and has been since September, despite being permitted to sell food and drink for delivery.
“From the beginning of the crisis, no official contact has ever been established with us,” he said. “Not from authorities, not from city authorities. We get everything on the news – 24/7 speculation.
“Before one of the tightening of restrictions, we came to know through the news that the next day there was to be a complete closure of restaurants,” he continued. “All the restaurateurs found out the day before that the next day they are closed – a crazy absurdity in a world of fresh ingredients.”
What’s more, Krakover added that information about business grants and tax payments have similarly been lacking from local authorities – though he explains that a number of grants have saved his business from “bleeding to death”.
“We read about it in the news or hear word of mouth that an option has been opened on the tax authority’s website,” he said.
‘Not a shred’ of guidance
Asked which rules or restrictions he expects that his bar will be required to follow once vaccines have been rolled out and the hospitality sector can reopen, Krakover said: “apparently only God knows”.
He also explained that he has been unable to maintain “continuous” contact with staff.
“At the moment there is not even a shred of guidance as to what will happen after the vaccinations,” Krakover added. “Every day a different politician says different things on TV.
“Public officials in the field of public medicine have also become a kind of celebrity,” he said. “So they too always say different things.
What’s more, fellow Tel Aviv bar owner Dan Hoshen of Potion – who like Krakover has run his site for five years – likewise has remained closed since September with no takeaway operation.
Asked when he believes his site will reopen, he forecasts April if “all goes to plan”, though he caveats that “no one can really know” and is similarly unsure of what Covid-secure rules he’ll likely need to enforce.
“Probably extra hygiene and only vaccinated people will be allowed in – that's what I think anyway,” he told The MA.
While he anticipates that his staff will also need to be vaccinated before returning to work, he believes that they will have received their Covid jabs “in the next few weeks”.
Hoshen added that he believes that through a combination of grants and income from other business interests that he has “got lucky” throughout the ongoing crisis with most business owners “suffering like hell”.
‘No known rules’
Similarly, Mati Broudo, founder and owner of Tel Aviv-based R2M Group – which operates eight hotel and restaurant concepts in the city – stated that businesses have not received any information from authorities.
However, despite preparing to “reopen with full operations” under a far more optimistic first week of March forecast, Broudo explained that no post-lockdown rules have been outlined by the authorities.
“No known rules as of now. However, we expect the staff to maintain social distancing etiquettes,” he told The MA. “I have been vaccinated and [so have] over 50% of the staff.”
“We will follow the rules, regulations and the norms,” he continues. “No known government rules going forward.
“We have not received any support from any government or private institutions.”