BEIJING – Chinese couples who want to celebrate Valentine’s Day will have to give up dinner plans and romantic getaways due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We were going out and have a date, have dinner and watch a movie, but due to the epidemic I will have to stay at home alone,” Lan Zhaizhai Shaonu posted on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
There is almost no trace of adverts in restaurants or travel agencies in the empty streets of Beijing.
Only some businesses, reluctant to join the wave of temporary closures, maintain discounts, although in many cases they would only apply them to delivery orders.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Beijing was focused on boosting consumption and Western celebrations, such as Valentine’s Day, represent an income opportunity for many companies.
Things seem to be different this year.
Chinese authorities have suspended group tours in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.
Travel agencies are not taking requests from couples either.
“We have not received requests for romantic Valentine’s getaways yet,” travel agency Zhongqinglu-Aoyou told Efe.
They are still busy managing reimbursements for cancelled trips for the Chinese New Year.
“If you want to travel, the best option is visiting the airline website and buying the tickets there for yourself,” they added.
The basic plan for those couples who celebrate Valentine’s Day consists of a dinner in an exclusive restaurant, but the most recommended restaurants to enjoy a romantic date in Beijing are now closed.
Luxury restaurant Red Bowl will remain closed until at least February 17.
Others are waiting for indications from Chinese authorities before announcing a reopening date.
Employees from Jingxin Lian, a well-known vegetarian spot, have not even considered choosing a special menu for Valentine’s Day, a worker who preferred not to reveal his name told Efe.
The Italian chain Annie’s, one of the most popular in Beijing, is offering discounts on some of their most popular dishes for those who prefer to order food and get it delivered.
Although the extended holidays for the lunar New Year have officially ended, there are hardly any open businesses in the Chinese capital.
Food and flower deliveries are keeping businesses afloat.
“Almost 100% of the orders come for Taobao (one of the most popular e-commerce sites in the country),” owner of LaCite florist’s said.
Although they have reopened the physical store, there are no customers in it.
“This year sales will go down a lot, around 80%,” the business owner, who did not want to reveal his name, added.
In times of crisis, some people panic and others make fun of it.
Health authorities’ recommendation of staying at home as much as possible has led to an infinite number of memes in social media.
An example of this is a picture spread on WeChat (the Chinese version of WhatsApp) showing a person asking ‘How is the situation in Beijing?’ and the answer is simply a picture of an empty condom shelf.
In the tourist city of Luoyang, a new banner encouraging couples to have a second kid was hung up by local authorities.
“While you stay home during the epidemic, remember that the second child’s policy is in effect. You can contribute to your country by having a second child.”