Photos: Chinatowns across the world feel the brunt of virus panic

Although the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic is more than a ten-hour-flight way, and Australia has seen just a handful of cases, the stigma of a disease that has claimed more than 1,800 lives is pervasive. Streets are notably quieter, facemasks are a commonplace and even a Lunar New Year dragon dance failed to bring in the usual crowds. Businesses report their earnings have dropped by more than half and they have been forced to cut staff hours dramatically, a situation echoed in Chinatowns across the world.

Updated On Feb 20, 2020 06:57 PM IST 12 Photos
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Normally bustling century-old Chinatowns from Melbourne to San Francisco have fallen quiet and businesses are struggling to survive as fears over the novel coronavirus outbreak ripple around the world. “Scaremongering is rampant” complained Max Huang, owner of the Juicy Bao restaurant in Melbourne’s historic Chinese district. “Customers won’t come in if they can avoid it,” he told AFP. (William West / AFP)

Normally bustling century-old Chinatowns from Melbourne to San Francisco have fallen quiet and businesses are struggling to survive as fears over the novel coronavirus outbreak ripple around the world. “Scaremongering is rampant” complained Max Huang, owner of the Juicy Bao restaurant in Melbourne’s historic Chinese district. “Customers won’t come in if they can avoid it,” he told AFP. (William West / AFP)

Updated on Feb 20, 2020 06:57 PM IST
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Huang’s eatery sits among dozens of restaurants making up Australia’s oldest Chinatown enclave, dating back to the influx of fortune seekers during a 1850s gold rush. Although the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic is more than a ten-hour-flight way, and Australia has seen just a handful of cases, the stigma of a disease that has claimed more than 1,800 lives is pervasive. (William West / AFP)

Huang’s eatery sits among dozens of restaurants making up Australia’s oldest Chinatown enclave, dating back to the influx of fortune seekers during a 1850s gold rush. Although the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic is more than a ten-hour-flight way, and Australia has seen just a handful of cases, the stigma of a disease that has claimed more than 1,800 lives is pervasive. (William West / AFP)

Updated on Feb 20, 2020 06:57 PM IST
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A passer-by looks at a sign from a Chinese restaurant stating it is disinfected daily, in Melbourne's Chinatown. Streets are notably quieter, face masks are commonplace and even a Lunar New Year dragon dance failed to bring in the crowds. Businesses report their earnings have dropped by more than half and they have been forced to cut staff hours dramatically, a situation echoed in Chinatowns across the world. (William West / AFP)

A passer-by looks at a sign from a Chinese restaurant stating it is disinfected daily, in Melbourne's Chinatown. Streets are notably quieter, face masks are commonplace and even a Lunar New Year dragon dance failed to bring in the crowds. Businesses report their earnings have dropped by more than half and they have been forced to cut staff hours dramatically, a situation echoed in Chinatowns across the world. (William West / AFP)

Updated on Feb 20, 2020 06:57 PM IST
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A worker waits for customers in London's Chinatown district. At the usually buzzing Empire Seafood Restaurant in Vancouver’s Richmond suburb for instance, getting a table is now a breeze. “Usually we’d have a large line-up time of approximately five-ten tables, but today there is no line up at all,” assistant general manager Ivan Yeung said. (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP)

A worker waits for customers in London's Chinatown district. At the usually buzzing Empire Seafood Restaurant in Vancouver’s Richmond suburb for instance, getting a table is now a breeze. “Usually we’d have a large line-up time of approximately five-ten tables, but today there is no line up at all,” assistant general manager Ivan Yeung said. (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP)

Updated on Feb 20, 2020 06:57 PM IST
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A ban on travellers from China has hit many neighbourhoods particularly hard. In Australia, the travel ban has been compounded by almost 100,000 Chinese students being unable to fly Down Under to start the academic year. “Our main customers are from China... (so) it’s very difficult,” said Su Yin, whose pancake store sits downstairs from a Melbourne college with a large Chinese student base. (William West / AFP)

A ban on travellers from China has hit many neighbourhoods particularly hard. In Australia, the travel ban has been compounded by almost 100,000 Chinese students being unable to fly Down Under to start the academic year. “Our main customers are from China... (so) it’s very difficult,” said Su Yin, whose pancake store sits downstairs from a Melbourne college with a large Chinese student base. (William West / AFP)

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The Chinatown area in Windhoek, Namibia. Namibia should feel little concern about the coronavirus outbreak given that the sparsely-populated desert country is 12,000 kilometres from China and without a single confirmed case. But like many others on the continent, the southern African nation hosts a big Chinese retail business community with close links to home. (Hildegard Titus / AFP)

The Chinatown area in Windhoek, Namibia. Namibia should feel little concern about the coronavirus outbreak given that the sparsely-populated desert country is 12,000 kilometres from China and without a single confirmed case. But like many others on the continent, the southern African nation hosts a big Chinese retail business community with close links to home. (Hildegard Titus / AFP)

Updated on Feb 20, 2020 06:57 PM IST
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A man reads a letter to customers on the shutters of a closed shop in Windhoek’s Chinatown. As the fear of infection spreads, businesses are taking things into their own hands. A notice taped to a Chinese-owned shop spelled it out: Any merchant returning from China “must be quarantined for 14 days and keep the shop closed for that period”, stated the instructions signed by the Chinatown management. (Hildegard Titus / AFP)

A man reads a letter to customers on the shutters of a closed shop in Windhoek’s Chinatown. As the fear of infection spreads, businesses are taking things into their own hands. A notice taped to a Chinese-owned shop spelled it out: Any merchant returning from China “must be quarantined for 14 days and keep the shop closed for that period”, stated the instructions signed by the Chinatown management. (Hildegard Titus / AFP)

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The Chinese community, their embassy and Chinese Chamber of Commerce are trying their “very best to prevent people from returning from China to Namibia ... during this period,” Brian Lee (2nd L), a businessman told AFP. A quarantine place outside of Windhoek has been made, but nobody has been taken there yet. “I think everybody is panicking, not just Namibians, also the Chinese community here,” said Lee. (Hildegard Titus / AFP)

The Chinese community, their embassy and Chinese Chamber of Commerce are trying their “very best to prevent people from returning from China to Namibia ... during this period,” Brian Lee (2nd L), a businessman told AFP. A quarantine place outside of Windhoek has been made, but nobody has been taken there yet. “I think everybody is panicking, not just Namibians, also the Chinese community here,” said Lee. (Hildegard Titus / AFP)

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Hoping to reassure customers, some businesses have installed hand sanitiser for guests and given staff face masks and rubber gloves. But such measures appear to have had limited success. Rebecca Lyu, a Chinese student living in London, has had a hard time convincing friends to join her to eat or shop. “Some of my friends refused to go eat at restaurants in Chinatown because they are worried about the virus,” she said. (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP)

Hoping to reassure customers, some businesses have installed hand sanitiser for guests and given staff face masks and rubber gloves. But such measures appear to have had limited success. Rebecca Lyu, a Chinese student living in London, has had a hard time convincing friends to join her to eat or shop. “Some of my friends refused to go eat at restaurants in Chinatown because they are worried about the virus,” she said. (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP)

Updated on Feb 20, 2020 06:57 PM IST
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Tourists putting on face masks in London's Chinatown district. Many believe xenophobia has worsened the situation further. Fred Lo’s souvenir store in San Francisco is usually frequented by tourists from Europe and South America. But “for the past two weeks, there’s been a lot less people, at least 50% less, even though nobody is sick or has even been to China,” he told AFP. (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP)

Tourists putting on face masks in London's Chinatown district. Many believe xenophobia has worsened the situation further. Fred Lo’s souvenir store in San Francisco is usually frequented by tourists from Europe and South America. But “for the past two weeks, there’s been a lot less people, at least 50% less, even though nobody is sick or has even been to China,” he told AFP. (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP)

Updated on Feb 20, 2020 06:57 PM IST
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A man walks past the deserted Los Angeles Chinatown in California. “It’s unfair that a lot of people are scared of Chinese people,” said Eddie Lau, president of Melbourne’s Chinese Chamber of Commerce. “We tell people, ‘we are fine, don’t be scared.’” (Mark Ralston / AFP)

A man walks past the deserted Los Angeles Chinatown in California. “It’s unfair that a lot of people are scared of Chinese people,” said Eddie Lau, president of Melbourne’s Chinese Chamber of Commerce. “We tell people, ‘we are fine, don’t be scared.’” (Mark Ralston / AFP)

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In London, David Tang said he had clearly noticed others avoiding him in recent weeks, but understood why people were afraid and had tried to take it in his stride. “I travel by train every morning. One day last week, all the people were standing, and I’ve got an empty seat next to me,” he said. “I laughed about it.” (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP)

In London, David Tang said he had clearly noticed others avoiding him in recent weeks, but understood why people were afraid and had tried to take it in his stride. “I travel by train every morning. One day last week, all the people were standing, and I’ve got an empty seat next to me,” he said. “I laughed about it.” (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP)

Updated on Feb 20, 2020 06:57 PM IST
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