Amid virus fears, even a haircut is a major operation

BEIJING (AP) – Need a trim in Beijing? You might have to wait.

Even getting a haircut has become a challenge in China now that most barbershops are temporarily shut to avoid public gatherings amid the virus outbreak.

Customers must maintain a distance of no less than 1.5 metres between chairs — that is, if they manage to make an appointment. Barbershops have to call customers who made reservations on the day of their appointment to ask if they have a cough or a fever, symptoms of pneumonia caused by the virus that causes COVID-19, according to information on the website of the Beijing Hairdressing and Beauty Association.

“Now we try to wash hair faster and cancel unnecessary services so as to cut down on the time with customers. We keep the door open every day. Once the customers who made reservations arrive, we will disinfect their hands and shoe soles,” said Founder of JF Pro Salon Fu Jun. “These are the measures we take to ensure safety.”

Just 130 Beijing barbershops were allowed to open by Monday, only a tiny fraction of the more than 20,000 that usually operate across Beijing, Fu said.

Of JF Pro Salon’s eight Beijing shops, four have been allowed to open since February 16.

Fu said 40 per cent of its employees are back to work. Others are in self-quarantine, required by the government of all who have returned from out of town. And some are unable to return at all because of the suspension of transport services from many places. Monday is the second day of the second month of the Chinese lunar calendar, traditionally an auspicious time when people rush into barbershops to get new haircuts. Getting a fresh look on the day is thought to bring good luck for the year ahead.

In past years, more than 200 customers would flock to each of his shops on this special day, Fu said. But today only about 100 customers made reservations in the four shops that are open. Fu said his business can basically make ends meet but things must be much harder for other barbershops.

A barber wearing a protective face mask cuts a clients hair with an eye cover and face mask at a hair salon in Beijing. PHOTO: AP