Fish and vegetable merchants are reopening stalls at wet markets in China’s central city of Wuhan as it lifts a months-long lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic, but their future looks uncertain with few customers as the virus stigma persists.
The virus, which has infected 1.6 million people and killed 106,000 in 214 countries, is believed to have originated late last year among wild animals on sale in a seafood market in Wuhan that has been closed and boarded up since January.
“This is a person-to-person virus, no matter where you are,” a vegetable and meat vendor at a wet market, Jin Qinzhi, said when asked what she thought about demands for their closure.
“Even the supermarket is full of people. Here people are more scattered. As long as we take precautionary measures, and we pay attention to disinfecting, it should be fine.”
A common sight across Asia, wet markets traditionally sell fresh produce and live animals, such as fish, in the open air. They tend to be popular with shoppers who believe the items on sale are cheaper and fresher than in supermarkets.
Stall owners in Wuhan said they were not optimistic after their business was badly hurt by the strict shutdowns in China, which ordered a temporary ban on trade and consumption of wildlife in January.
“There is no business and no one is coming,” a worker chopping fish who only gave her surname, Zhang, said.
“Everywhere is blocked and people cannot come in. Everyone is scared to go out and contract the virus.”
Wuhan will spend 200 million yuan A$44 million to upgrade its 425 farmers’ markets, in a campaign to improve hygiene, city officials said on Friday. Still, some worry they may not stay around long enough to see it.
“We don’t have any income and business,” Ms Jin said.
“If it goes on like this, it will be very difficult for us to survive.”
Many stores remain shut and some curbs continue, even though a sharp drop in new local cases prompted lifting of the lockdown.
China reported 99 new virus infections on Saturday, taking its tally to 82,052, with a death toll of 3339. Globally, the virus has reached 214 countries.
Coronavirus: what you need to know
What is the difference between COVID-19 and the flu?
The symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are very similar, as they both can cause fever and respiratory issues.
Both infections are also transmitted the same way, via coughing or sneezing, or by contact with hands, surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus.
The speed of transmission and the severity of the infection are the key differences between COVID-19 and the flu.
The time from infection to the appearance of symptoms is typically shorter with the flu. However, there are higher proportions of severe and critical COVID-19 infections.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing involved minimising contact with people and maintaining a distance of over one metre between you and others.
When practicing social distancing, you should avoid public transport, limit non-essential travel, work from home and skip large gatherings.
It is okay to go outdoors. However, when you do leave home, avoid touching your face and frequently wash your hands.
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