As the dangers of Coronavirus (Covid-19) are being sensationally played-out across the media, it’s starting to feel like we’re on the brink of something unprecedented. There are lots of concerns about the dangers posed, lots of fear and panic-buying gripping the public, often misplaced and misinformed. As I write, Italy spends its first days in quarantine and pundits reckon that could be us in a fortnight. With all this going on, I wanted to reflect on the dangers for your local bingo club.
Already, Bingo Halls have been taking measures, with some scanning customers and not letting people in if they have high temperatures. Elsewhere 25 bingo players have had to self-isolate themselves after a member of their club was diagnosed with the virus.
How effective things like scanning and self-isolation will be is anyone’s guess at the moment. When you factor in Covid-19’s propensity to be more dangerous for the older population, bingo has some unique challenges ahead as this medical drama unfolds. Keep abreast of what the scientists are saying about it, and temper that with caution on your part to help stay safe.
Firstly, if you are going to bingo – keep your hands clean, wash them every interval if you can! Keep your clean hands away from your face as well. People share lots of surfaces at the bingo clubs, from the tables to the bingo boards to the slot machines. If your club is unfortunate enough to have someone unknowingly infected attending, you will at least minimise your chances of picking the bug up if you clean your hands thoroughly and don’t touch your eyes and mouth.
Secondly, try to keep about a metre’s distance between yourself and other members at the club. This will be particularly tricky if you’re queuing for tickets or stood at the bar. The tables and seating also tend to be right on top of each other, which makes this especially tricky. And finally, wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Yes, wash, wash again and keep them clean – simple really.
But what of the clubs themselves? If the UK goes into a state of lockdown and people are not allowed to assemble, this could be really bad for bingo halls, disastrous in fact. The government has introduced measures to help businesses, but given the precarious state of affairs at some clubs, it may not be enough. Smaller, more independent clubs won’t have the support of a big organisation behind them, and if they’ve been having a tough time recently, this could be the thing that sends them over.
Even the big chains will struggle if there are weeks of closures, no-sales and business at the clubs. While they may be able to offset some of the loss with an increase in online play at their own sites, that will always be a large proportion of their members that wouldn’t play online and that business will be lost for the length of any lockdown.
Whatever happens over the coming months, bingo halls need to prepare for the worst. Loss of business, loss of customers (in the worst way in some cases) and other operational issues brought about by the knock-on effects of any period of lockdown are a real concern. I really fear for the retail bingo business at the moment, and think this could potentially have an impact on the business bigger than the smoking ban and limiting of gaming machines combined.
Fingers crossed it doesn’t get that bad though. And once you’ve uncrossed your fingers, go wash your hands. Seriously.