Eat alone, don't chat with coworkers, no hugging of Mickey Mouse at Disney: Coronavirus sparks hygiene rules in China

People walking around the grounds outside the entrance of Hong Kong Disneyland, on Jan 26, 2020, after the park announced it was shutting its doors until further notice over a deadly virus outbreak in central China. PHOTO: AFP
An employee wearing a mask stands next to a sign announcing the park's closure at Hong Kong Disneyland in Hong Kong, on Jan 26, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI/TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - One of China's biggest banks has told workers to eat alone and avoid chit-chat with coworkers.

Kids visiting Tokyo Disney might want to forget about hugging their favourite oversize mascots.

At McDonald's in Shanghai, customers have to sterilise their hands and register their contact information before they can pick up their food.

Doing business during a pandemic is anything but simple. In efforts to protect staff and customers from the rapidly spreading coronavirus, plenty of firms have told employees to work from home, restricted travel, and relaxed dress codes to allow employees to wear masks.

But where remote work isn't possible or interacting with customers is critical, companies are looking for compromises and workarounds that keep people healthy and the business afloat.

Masks, of course, are ubiquitous, and gloves are becoming more common.

On a recent Air New Zealand flight from Vancouver to Auckland, flight attendants wore blue surgical gloves when handling passenger's boarding passes as they entered the plane.

Banks have also started requiring tellers to wear gloves to minimise the potential transmission from customers and from notes and coins.

The People's Bank of China, meanwhile, has begun using ultraviolet light and high-temperature ovens to disinfect cash coming in. It's also replacing old notes with newly minted bills.

At the central bank's branch in Xi'an, a city in central China, it's piping in ozone to fight the virus. Access to its vault, where banks pick up cash, is restricted to two at a time.

The death toll in China has climbed to 490 people, with more than 24,000 infections.

Disney resorts in mainland China and in Hong Kong are closed for now, but the Tokyo park remains open, with precautions.

The park staff will wear masks, some of the mascots will refrain from hugging guests, and photo opportunities with the characters will be limited.

There's also the risk employees potentially pose to each other. Employees at Bank of China Co. are allowed to work remotely. Those who've come in to the Beijing headquarters have been told to eat lunch at least a meter from coworkers.

Small talk is also strongly discouraged, the bank wrote in a notice to employees, saying, "There's no topic that's so urgent it's worth you risking your life to discuss."

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