Are Hospitality Workers Essential in the COVID-19 Response? 

Are hospitality workers essential? This article examines whether or not hotel and restaurant workers are considered “essential workers” in the COVID-19 vaccine response. We also examine the travel restrictions for hospitality workers during the roll-out of COVID-19. In this piece, we look at what is meant by “essential” and what these terms mean. The answers will provide clarity and practical implications for hospitality workers. Also discussed is the impact of the travel restrictions on the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out on these workers. 

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Hotel workers are deemed essential workers in the COVID-19 response 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has recently updated guidance for public health professionals to protect hotel workers. Hotel workers are front-line workers for pandemic-related operations. As a result, they can be vaccinated against the virus. More than 400 members of the Hotel Trades Council have died of COVID-19 since it first struck in October 2017. Union sources report that many of them contracted the disease on the job. 

Restaurant workers are deemed essential workers in the COVID-19 response 

The COVID-19 response recognizes that some employees in the food and hospitality industry are considered essential workers. These workers are those who provide critical services and goods to the general public. Although they may not have secure livelihoods, these employees are vital for society to function. In the wake of the pandemic, they are now being recognized as essential workers. Here are some of the implications of these designations for these workers. 

Service workers in the leisure and hospitality sector are deemed essential workers in the COVID-19 response 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2020, nonfarm payroll employment declined by 9.4 million, the largest decline in the series’ history. The decline was primarily caused by a COVID-19 pandemic, social changes, and government restrictions on business activity. The greatest losses were in industries with close contact with travelers, including the leisure and hospitality sectors. Overall, every major industry lost jobs, although the tourism and service sectors lost the most. 

Travel restrictions imposed on hospitality workers during COVID-19 vaccine rollout 

In response to growing concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the Philippines has rolled out strict travel restrictions for hotel and restaurant workers. In addition to a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine requirement for K-12 school employees, the Department of Health and Human Services also announced restrictions for people who work in the healthcare or hospitality industries. Travel restrictions also apply to government contractors and individuals who are employed by health facilities. 

Hotel workers prioritized during COVID-19 vaccine rollout 

Hotel workers are at the frontline of the H1N1 pandemic. Because they host domestic and global travelers, hotel employees are susceptible to catching the virus. While hotels have protocols in place to limit contact between guests and employees, a vaccine prioritized for hotel workers would provide an additional layer of protection. In the event of a vaccine shortage, hotel workers should be given priority in distribution and access to the vaccine. 

Health care for hospitality workers is a priority in the COVID-19 response 

The increasing number of COVID-19 cases highlights the need for increased health system strengthening. In response to the growing risk of COVID, the Asian Development Bank and the European Investment Bank announced $75 million and $59 million investments respectively in enhanced health care capacity in India and China. The United Kingdom has announced a $6.1 million (PS4.5 million) program to improve medical equipment globally. The World Bank is also providing financial support for the development of medical equipment in the affected regions.