Coronavirus: Caribbean restaurant chain planned to take on Covid-19 with ‘infra-red thermometer guns’ and Wray & Nephew rum

Cottons Camden

Cottons Camden - Credit: Archant

A Caribbean restaurant chain planned to fight coronavirus by using excess Wray & Nephew overproof rum as a disinfectant and testing punters’ temperatures using “infra-red thermometer guns”.

Cottons Camden

Cottons Camden - Credit: Archant

Cottons Rum Shack, which has branches in Camden Town and Shoreditch, revealed its plans in a marketing email hours before Boris Johnson “strongly advised” people to avoid pubs, theatres and restaurants.

As it stands on Tuesday morning, the Cottons chain has the thermometers – seen being used in parts of China to help contain the deadly Covid-19 virus – ready for use tonight, but bosses are now weighing up the decision of whether to close the restaurants.

In the email on Monday the chain announced it was “taking various measures to ensure the safety of our customers and staff”.

These included the now-standard advice for staff returning from affected areas to self-quarantine, but more uniquely the email continued: “All members of staff and customers entering the premises are subject to temperature analysis by the use of infra-red thermometer guns which are non-evasive and contactless. Anyone exhibiting high temperatures will not be allowed access into the venues.

“We have also changed the cleaning products that we use and have used the high alcohol propensities of our favourite Wray & Nephew overproof rum mixed with vinegar instead of the generic anti-bacterial cleaning products that were previously used.”

It is uncertain how accurate the thermometer guns are – with medical experts suggesting they should not be relied upon as a failsafe.

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After Boris Johnson announced people should avoid public venues, Cottons’ head of sales Arnaud Barbezat said: “Of course things have changed already. We are receiving the infra-red sensors today, and we have lots of hand sanitiser. We are now considering whether to shut down the venues. For us this is going to be really difficult. We hope that we are going to get some support from the government. We need to look at where we can find positives and look to the other options like our delivering of food.

“We need to reassure our staff that we will be there for them.”

On Monday, the Prime Minister said: “What we are doing is giving very strong advice that public venues such as theatres should no longer be visited.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is today due to set out a new package of support for businesses hit by the outbreak less than a week after announcing £12 billion of emergency funding in the budget.

Read the latest on the ongoing pandemic in our liveblog.