JINGZHOU – Li Yu is happy that she sold six pieces of roasted corn the day she opened her stall after raising travel restrictions in Jingzhou, but she’s worried about the future of her business near the ancient city wall, a tourist attraction in Hubei province.
Li was forced to close his stall in late January as part of the Hubei lock-up to deal with the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, only to open on Thursday as China began to raise curfews in the province amid a sharp fall. in cases sent locally.
Li, 55, said the business has been worst in the seven years since he opened his stable. The Chinese Lunar New Year holiday in February is usually a high season for Li, but the lockdown virus kills it.
At normal times she makes 4,000 yuan ($ 565.70) a month. The sale of six grains of corn will fetch around 12 yuan – a paltry daily profit.
“The first half of the year is the time for flowers to bloom. Many people come out here to admire the flowers, take photos. It should be a peak season for us, but this year the coronavirus is sure to have of great impact, “Li told Reuters on Thursday.
For residents of Hubei, where the uprising began late last year in the capital city of Wuhan, it has also left them fighting a stigma.
“Just look, there are few people. Those outside (Hubei) will not travel here for the holiday,” Li said.
“Today Hubei in China is the hardest hit area, and nobody dares to come. When they know you’re from Hubei, they all stay away from you. They are scared.”
By the day Reuters spoke to Li only two of the seven stalls around his section of the ancient wall had been opened, on Friday all stalls were closed, with only a handful of people walking around.
CHRISTMAS AND SHOWING
Chinese authorities have recently announced measures to try and get consumers to spend and visit tourist attractions, such as by offering millions of discount voucher amounts.
The Hubei government, like others across the country, has also pledged to help the flow of small businesses with policies such as the value of extra taxes.
That was little consolation for Zhou Yanjun. His restaurant, a 10-minute walk from the ancient Jingzhou wall, will have to remain closed until further notice, even though he is still on the hook to pay rent.
“Now we can only make food for ourselves to eat,” he said, as he prepared dinner for his family from the kitchen of his restaurant. “It’s going to be a very, very difficult year.”
Others have found solace in the reopening of the ancient city of Jingzhou tourist city.
Friends Wang Jue and Xiao Man, both 25, met there Wednesday for the first time since the lockdown was imposed two months ago.
Wang is still waiting to return to his job at Wuhan, which remains in lockdown until April 8, while Xiao said he has been applying for jobs, though he has not heard back for any of the past weeks.
However, he is optimistic, Xiao said. “I hope everyone can return to normal soon.”
($ 1 = 7.0709 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Michael Perry)