The recent outbreak of the coronavirus in China has caused worldwide panic, as confirmed cases have spread out to 27 countries, including the UK, France, German, Italy, Australia and the USA. So far over 28,000 people are known to be infected, and tragically at least 565 recorded deaths have been attributed to the virus. This has also had a considerable economic effect as both travel and trade with China has become increasingly risky, with businesses rightly putting the welfare of their staff and customers above trading concerns. The coffee industry is no exception to this and has been hit hard by the rapid spreading of the disease.
What is the coronavirus?
Coronavirus is actually a large family of viruses, with milder strains causing cold-like symptoms, and more severe strains such as SARS being much more dangerous. The recent outbreak is referred to as a novel coronavirus (nCoV), which essentially means that it’s a strain that had not previously been identified in humans. The virus is a respiratory disease which can cause mild symptoms like a runny nose and a cough, to more dangerous issues like pneumonia and breathing difficulties. In rare cases the disease can be fatal, with those particularly at risk being older people and those with pre-existing medial conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
China’s coffee industry, and how it has been affected
The Chinese coffee market has grown rapidly in recent years, with coffee imports having tripled over the last decade. Due to the rate of growth it’s also considered to be one of the markets with the most potential, with experts forecasting considerable growth in the coming years. Since the coronavirus outbreak just over a month ago however, investors have been understandably unsettled, with the benchmark index for coffee futures dropping by more than a fifth.
Two of the biggest coffee shop chains in the country have taken a massive hit as they have decided to close stores temporarily. Starbucks have shut more than half of their stores in China, and Luckin Coffee have closed all of their stores in Wuhan. Both brands have seen a knock-on impact to their shares, with Starbucks dropping 6% and Luckin Coffee by a third. Depending on how these brands manage to bounce back, this could be a massive blow for the fledgling Chinese coffee industry.
What can we do to stay safe?
Health authorities are currently working hard to keep the coronavirus as contained as possible, hopefully the situation will be under control soon. Here are some general tips to reduce your risk of being exposed to the virus, and some general hygiene tips to help you stay safe.
- Avoid travelling to mainland China unless absolutely necessary.
- UK nationals in China have been advised to leave if possible.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitisers.
- Maintain social distancing (at least 1 metre away from others) where possible, especially if they have cold or flu like symptoms.
- Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth.
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
- If you have mild respiratory symptoms but have not travelled to China, practice basic hygiene and stay home until recovered.
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