Published: 09:12, 16 March 2020
| Updated: 15:05, 16 March 2020
Organisers of big events, tourist attractions, community groups and playgroup leaders across Thanet are cancelling services, closing or taking extra measures to contain the spread of coronavirus across the isle.
Notices have gone up on social media informing the public of temporary closures and events being cancelled in a bid to protect customers.
Broadstairs Town Team has cancelled all activities, such as litter-picking and gardening, throughout the rest of the month and April, Baby Sensory sessions have been suspended in Ramsgate until further notice, and POW! Festival has pulled its two biggest weekend events, Mind Body Day and Cocoa Butter Club.
Margate Arts Club has also postponed its Heavy Disco event which was planned for Saturday and the Broadstairs Easter Food Festival, scheduled for April, has been cancelled.
Jo Scott, spokesman for the large event, says it is not a decision that has been taken lightly.
"However, this is a food and drink festival, attracting a large number of people who are there to sample produce," she said.
"It is critical not to create an environment that could exacerbate the current coronavirus situation.
"With the continued progress of the coronavirus, we feel it would not be responsible to host the event this spring, so it is better to take the decision now rather than cancel at shorter notice.
"Although many people have been eagerly anticipating the Easter festival, and a great deal of work has gone into its preparation, the safety and wellbeing of our visitors, volunteers and traders alike, must be uppermost in our plans."
The treatment room at Haeckels in Margate has closed through April, although the shop is open, and The Coffee Shack in Ramsgate, due to open for the spring and summer season today, has postponed its opening until firm guidelines have been issued.
Bosses at Turner Contemporary are currently monitoring the situation and say they will make changes should the need arise.
A spokesman for Dreamland says they are currently proceeding as normal but monitoring government advice.
Small businesses are expected to take a hit from the drastic measures being put in place.
Fiona Crawford, who runs Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense in Thanet, says it is a terrible time for small businesses.
"Our cashflow is very tight, and with no income and salaries and bills to pay, many are very fearful for their future," she said.
"But we have a responsibility to our customers and our staff.
"At Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense, we deal with very young children, and with at least 300 children plus their carers coming through our doors, I think there is too much exposure to the virus, and I can't in conscience continue to run our activities.
"Our customers know we have their best interests at heart, so will understand our decision.
"Ramsgate town is suffering from a collapse in customers and income..."
"If we can run some outdoor events, we will do some weekly 'wrap up warm' activities at the bandstand in Broadstairs to entertain our little ones. We will follow government guidelines on that."
Mayor of Ramsgate Cllr Raushan Ara is calling for support for small businesses.
"During this difficult time, it is crucial that small businesses and the self-employed, many of which are in the hospitality industry, or service providers, are given adequate financial support," she said.
"The cost of just keeping a business open, with a severe drop in takings, could lead to many businesses going bankrupt.
"If the UK is to avoid a recession, the small businesses, which are the country's backbone, must survive.
"Ramsgate town is suffering from a collapse in customers and income.
"Due to the closures of town centres everywhere, this has placed even more pressure on our vulnerable economy.
"If businesses cannot pay wages, lay-offs will have to occur, and this will have a disastrous domino effect on the wider economy.
"What the government needs to do is to make sure that banks take measures to give relief to businesses and self-employed workers during this crisis.
"The government also needs to give tangible financial support to tide businesses over."
Schools are also taking measures with advice being sent out to parents to keep children at home if they have a temperature or new persistent cough, although they are currently staying open.
Many have cancelled events and school trips, including Upton Junior School in Broadstairs and Newington Community primary School in Ramsgate.
Kent School of English is no longer accepting students due to the escalating situation.
"We have agreed with our partner schools and agents that, as of this weekend, KSE will not be accepting any students until March 29th at the earliest," said principal Andy Flaig.
"We understand this will affect a lot of people locally – staff, suppliers, hosts, voucher-takers and others - but this decision has been made with the local community’s best interests in mind."
Meanwhile across Thanet, some shoppers continued to panic buy, stripping supermarket shelves of essentials such as toilet roll and hand wash as well as pasta and tinned goods.
It has prompted the manager of Iceland's The Food Warehouse in Westwood to take action and tomorrow morning a special OAP hour is being held from 7am where only elderly customers will be allowed in the shop.
Store manager Casey Abbott says it is not a company decision, but a local choice to help older people.
"This is only for OAP’s and it will be at my discretion for them to come in," he said.
"This will give them the chance to shop peacefully for one hour."
Community Facebook groups are also encouraging people to check in on elderly neighbours and those self-isolating.
Age UK Thanet:
Vanessa Wood, chief executive of Age UK Thanet, wants clients to know that they are not alone and that the organisation will be providing services, just in a different way.
"It's really important for them to know that we are here and we are still providing our befriending service, but over the phone rather than face-to-face.
"One of our most important services at the moment is providing our Buddy Box meals to people's homes to those who usually have them and those who are self-isolating.
"We are also offering shopping services for those who need it, and any support and advice over the telephone."
Ms Wood says the Age UK hub in Cliftonville, which offers activities and a drop-in service, is open, but they are monitoring the situation closely on whether to close.
She added: "The thought of isolating for four months is worrying but we want people to know we are here and still providing a service, just in a different way."
Call 01843 223881 if you need help or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/thanet
Temporary closures, precautionary measures and cancelled events:
We will update the list as we get more....