Coiffure.org, the sector federation for the hairdressing industry, has criticised the “incomprehensible” decision by the government to allow hair salons to remain open on weekdays while all other non-essential retail businesses have to close.
On the announcement of the new lockdown measures, emphasis was laid not only on staying inside as much as possible, but also on social distancing when outside: maintaining a distance of at least 1.5m from other people.
For those shops that are allowed to open – shops selling food for humans and animals, pharmacies and night shops until 22.00 – customers must be limited so that each person has an area of 10 square metres.
But, the hairdressers argue, such social distancing is not possible in their work. A hairdresser cannot stay 1.5m away from the client.
In addition, hair salons are only allowed to stay open by appointment, and only one hairdresser and one client are allowed inside the salon at any one time. That signifies a fraction of the number of clients who can be seen in one day.
“What is even more concerning is that the customer is not conscious of the gravity of the matter, and we are receiving a great deal of messages from hairdressers who are experiencing pressure from their customers,” the federation says in a statement published on its website.
“People refuse to cancel their appointments, and expect to be able to turn up as usual. And, thanks to the measures taken by the government, they expect to get the same service from their hairdresser as before.”
In the meantime, hairdressers are under mental pressure from having to deal with clients who may be infected, and at such close quarters.
And yet, because they are not being obliged to close, hairdressers are not entitled to the compensation being offered by the various governments – €4,000 for the period until 3 April, and €160 a day thereafter.
Hairdressers are faced with the choice “between cholera and the plague” – either to close down without the compensation available to others, or to carry on with major risk to the health of customers, staff and themselves.
“An extremely controversial decision by our federal government, and one we will continue to contest,” the federation concludes.
“The health of hairdressers and of the entire sector is of primary importance, and for that reason we intend to intensify the pressure, together with our partners Unizo and UCM [organisations in Flanders and Wallonia who represent the self-employed] to convince the government that this situation is no longer tolerable.”