A Bedford business has been accused of racism and ignoring government advice by encouraging people to use their facility during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
On the day the Prime Minister warned there would be “tougher measures” if people did not follow social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease, Provident House on Harpur Street hosted a yoga event.
They also announced ‘iso-working’ where anyone can come in and work in separate rooms, avoiding contact with other people.
An email detailing the arrangements also said that they wouldn’t be charging for use of the ‘iso-rooms’, thanks to the recent government coronavirus funding packages.
But many have criticised the business saying they should not be open at all.
On a Facebook post, now taken down, responses called the venue managers “irresponsible” and “incredibly selfish”.
In response to the criticism, owner, Paul Johnston, said: “The fake outrage mob on Facebook spreading misinformation haven’t taken the time to constructively engage with us before attacking us. These are fake and sad people.”
Bedford Borough Council to investigate
The Bedford Independent spoke to Bedford Borough Council to find out how Government closure orders and advice will be enforced.
A Borough Council spokesperson confirmed they would be contacting Provident House today to consider the particular instance further and will be liaising with the premises.
“The Government has provided guidance about social distancing to help minimise the spread of coronavirus, including urging people to avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, and we would urge residents and businesses to act responsibly and follow the guidance that has been issued,” they added.
“As of 2pm on 21 March 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 came into force providing local authorities with powers to enforce against businesses who do not comply with COVID-19 restrictions contained within the Regulations.
“Any instances can be reported to the local Council in the first instance.”
It comes a few days after the venue was criticised for ‘cashing-in’ with hand sanitiser workshops.
Venue also accused of racism
However, the business has also come under further criticism for using the phrase ‘Chinese Virus’ when talking about coronavirus and as a heading for their ‘pandemic plans’.
Comments on the venue’s Facebook page, which they have since removed, cited the racist connotations by using a location to describe the virus.
This wording is also against WHO, Red Cross and UNICEF guidelines that warn against using language that might cause a stigma about the virus.
The guidelines say: “Don’t – attach locations or ethnicity to the disease, this is not a ‘Wuhan Virus’, ‘Chinese Virus’ or ‘Asian Virus’.
“The official name for the disease was deliberately chosen to avoid stigmatisation.
“The ‘co’ stands for Corona, ‘vi’ for virus and ‘d’ for disease, 19 is because the disease emerged in 2019.”
We showed Mr Johnston these guidelines but he dismissed them: “It’s a Chinese virus,” he said.
“Lots of people I’ve spoken to agree that the US, UK, Italy and more should be demanding at least RMB 10tn from China… We’ll be joining petitions for this.”
He then went on to say: “Only an idiot is concerned about where someone is from rather than what they’ve done.”
When asked about the Yoga class that took place yesterday morning (Sunday), Mr Johnston said, “It was fab, very relaxing and we ensured double social distancing.
“We made everyone sanitise their hands thanks to the supplies we have we can be quite liberal in that regard.”
It’s not known if the hand sanitiser was ‘homemade’ at the workshops and if it contains the 60% alcohol content needed to be effective against viruses.
The Bedford Independent contacted the organiser of the yoga class but they did not respond by the time of publication.
Tougher measures could be put in place
Government guidelines stepped up last week, with pubs, clubs, gyms, and other venues being told to close.
The Prime Minister then announced yesterday that the Government may introduce tougher measures if social distancing is not taken seriously.
It comes as the number of UK deaths reached 281. There are also now four confirmed cases in Bedford.
The NHS in England also warns that 1.5 million of the most at-risk people should stay at home for 12 weeks.
PM Boris Johson also said those people must “shield” themselves, and that it “will do more than any other single measure that we are setting out to save life”.
People visiting parks have also been warned that even in an open space they must still follow social distancing protocols.