GEORGE NEWS - Owners of the Blue Forest Bookshop in Market Street have been doing their part in the fight to contain the Covid-19 virus. Camille Haupt and her husband Wolfgang believe books can help keep people sane during this time.
"It's quite astounding to think how our entire way of living - as a collective - has had to change overnight. We just realised that we had to now abide by one phrase, 'adapt or die', not only to protect our business, but to protect everybody we come into contact with," she said.
Haupt said they spent all of last week making detailed plans on how they were going to adapt to this situation, and then came the statement of the lockdown on Monday night. "We did not anticipate a full lockdown - and as such, many of the plans we had in place now have to change." They started cleaning books with sanitiser before selling them. They also had a cart of free books outside the shop for the last two weeks.
She said as bookstores or libraries are not considered "essential services" in South Africa (she has been told that they are in Belgium), they will also have to be closed for the duration of the 21-day lockdown as of tomorrow, Friday 27 March.
The delivery service they had planned to implement within the coming days has now also stalled. "We will probably only be able to implement this once the restrictions are lifted and there is a marked improvement in our country's rate of infection."
They are still doing research about the viability of selling on the internet from home, but aren't certain whether basic courier or delivery services will be functional during this time. "At this point there are a lot of uncertainties, and a whole set of new planning that has to be done."
The shop has been incredibly busy over the past few days, said Haupt, and it is encouraging to see how many people still love books and will be spending this lockdown with their noses firmly rooted in a book.
We realise that Covid-19 is already taking its toll on the economy, and have already seen its effects on our own business and the businesses of those around us. We've also realised that books should be accessible to all, and it is because of this that we have also had a cart of free books outside every day for the past two weeks. It is vital to the growth of a healthy society that people do keep reading. We do go to great lengths to disinfect these books regularly too.
We are worried about the future of our business - since both Wolfgang and I work here, this is our only source of income and is our entire livelihood. There are the obvious concerns about how our (high) rent will be paid, whether our business premises will be safe during this lockdown period and whether we actually will be able to come back from this. It's terrifying to not have any real certainty about the future, and to also be aware of the fact that any plans we may institute can change overnight.
At the moment it's hard not to give way to a messy puddle of anxiety, and we are losing a lot of sleep. There are obviously concerns about our own health - how to keep ourselves healthier, and how we can best protect the family, friends and clients we do come into contact with - especially since so many do fall into a group of high-risk individuals. We are generally not very social people, so we've been finding it rather easy to practise social distancing outside of work.
It isn't all negative though - the outpouring of love and support between humanity during times of trial and adversity is what gives us hope, and what we are sure will carry us through this.
We promise that both during and after this pandemic, we will continue to provide the passionate, diligent service we always have. We will unrelentingly continue to do anything in our power to protect havens of knowledge, the pages that contain them - in all forms - and the bookworms that cherish them.
We are busy setting up a mailing list and WhatsApp group to be able to more effectively communicate with all our customers - especially those who do not have or are not able to regularly access Facebook.
Anybody who would like to be added to one of these communication channels or who has any further queries is welcome to contact us on:
- 074 465 5050 (Wolfgang)
- 074 335 5500 (Camille)
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