Coronavirus: Wuhan's wet markets struggle to survive as fear and stigma keep customers at bay
Life in Wuhan, China is slowly starting to get back to normal with fish and vegetable shops slowly beginning to reopen. Shops at the wet markets in Wuhan are also opening up again.
The city of Wuhan recently lifted its month-long lockdown against COVID-19. However, the future of these businesses looks very uncertain given only a few customers buying what they offer as the virus stigma keeps people away.
Many stall owners in Wuhan shared they were not at all optimistic about their business given the strict lockdowns in China. The country had also ordered a temporary ban on trade and consumption of wildlife in January.
A fish shop worker who only shared her last name, Zhang, revealed, "There is no business and no one is coming. Everywhere is blocked and people cannot come in. Everyone is scared to go out and contract the virus," Reuters reports.
A vegetable and meat vendor at the wet market added, "This is a person-to-person virus, no matter where you are. 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."
"We don’t have any income and business. If it goes on like this, it will be very difficult for us to survive," Jin shared. Wet markets traditionally sell fresh produce and live animals in the open air. These markets are very popular with customers believing that the products are cheaper and fresher than what is found in supermarkets.
The deadly coronavirus is believed to have infected around 1,925,811 people globally out of which China has 83,303 confirmed cases as per data from Johns Hopkins University. It is also reported that the first known case of the coronavirus could be traced back to December 1, 2019, in Wuhan, China.
Within the span of a month, the number of cases in Wuhan rapidly increased with links to wet markets. One theory suggests that the virus originated from animals in these markets. City officials announced that Wuhan will be spending up to 200 million yuan ($28 million) to upgrade the markets.
They will also be focusing on improving hygiene and cleanliness in such places. However, the World Health Organization is urging countries to close all such 'dangerous' markets and has issued warnings about the high risk that such environments contain.
WHO and other health organizations believe that such markets pose a "real danger" and can easily spread from animals to humans. A WHO special envoy on COVID-19 and special representative, Dr David Nabarro, said that WHO "pleads with governments and just about everybody" to be respectful of the many possible viruses from animals.
"You know how WHO and other parts of the international system work – we don’t have the capacity to police the world. Instead, what we have to do is offer advice and guidance, and there’s very clear advice from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and WHO that said there are real dangers in these kinds of environments," he shared with BBC Radio, MSN News reports.
"75 percent of emerging infections come from the animal kingdom. It’s partly the markets, but it’s also other places where humans and animals are in close contact. Just make absolutely certain that you’re not creating opportunities for viral spread," he added.