It’s a sad cycle.
A business has a confirmed coronavirus case, so it closes while potentially infected staff and customers are traced, and the premises are sterilised.
Then it reopens, but there’s a problem — the customers have gone.
No one knows this devastating progression better than Stephanie and David Boyd, whose Thai Rock restaurant was home to Sydney’s biggest coronavirus cluster.
The couple shut their Wetherill Park eatery on July 9 after a staff member tested positive to the virus.
Two months, and 103 cases later, the business is in a deep, deep hole.
A week after reopening, their restaurant is empty.
“We are down 90 per cent of what we were before the closure,” Ms Boyd said.
“If we continue like this for another four weeks, we’ll be out of business.”
The cluster of cases, which unfolded over several weeks, was traced back to one lunch service.
“When we got the first call from our staff member, it was about getting to work to make sure everyone was safe and healthy,” Mr Boyd said.
“But during isolation that’s when the sadness and hurt kicked in.”
Initially, 15 people were infected.
But the numbers fanned out across the city as contacts of people who had eaten at the restaurant caught the virus.
“Each new case was like a cut, a wound to me,” Ms Boyd said.
“I would see a new case in the media on Facebook and the tears wouldn’t stop.”
On July 26, the couple’s second restaurant in Potts Point also had a confirmed COVID-19 infection, leading to six cases linked over the next two weeks.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has predicted the state’s economy will shrink by 10 per cent this financial year.
While many businesses battle the pandemic-driven downturn, for Thai Rock, a reputational annihilation has compounded their problems.
The blowback online was immediate.
“We were told to go and die and to burn in hell,” she said.
“People were leaving bad reviews about our restaurant online, even though we were closed for deep cleaning.
“I struggled to get out of bed, and I would cry every day.”
Ms Boyd said she would be devastated to shut the restaurant, which they have run for eight years.
The owners have installed a thermo camera to check each patron’s temperature as they enter Thai Rock.
The restaurant also has a COVID marshal to make sure social distancing is adhered to, and all the usual precautions like sanitiser and regular cleaning.
“We have a microbiologist that we hired to do surprise visits and swab the whole restaurant, and an electronic cleaner and fogger,” Mr Boyd said.
“The costs are large but what else can we do, we have to try.”