The economic impact of COVID-19

The post title might be misleading! I’m not going to analyse the current state of the global economy here, but merely wanted to note a few changes I’ve been seeing in Suzhou these past weeks. Here, the coronavirus epidemic has been under control for more than two months and there haven’t been new local infections in a long time, but most people still wear a mask outside and when entering a public place or even our residential compound we have our temperature taken and we have to show a QR code which proves we haven’t been to any high risk place lately. By the way, I don’t think there are any places in China that remain as high risk at this point; the last city in the north where there was an outbreak a few weeks ago was reclassified as low risk several days ago. Not all Chinese cities are being as careful as Suzhou, though; based on what friends have told me, almost no one wears masks anymore in Shanghai or Guangzhou.

As I’ve written here before, in Suzhou we never had a forced lockdown or quarantine like in Hubei province, but most people complied with the official recommendation of going out only if strictly necessary and streets were basically empty since January 23 until mid March. During that time, some restaurants continued working and delivering food, but many businesses and factories had to stop. One of the first times I went out after the worst was over, I went to a small neighbourhood mall nearby. In the basement there used to be a lot of small restaurants serving fast food (which in China means noodles or rice with toppings) and I noticed that around one third of them had closed down. Unfortunately, they haven’t been the only ones… a couple of weeks ago I found out that Awfully Chocolate, a shop that used to sell the best chocolate cakes in the whole city, had closed their two locations. Now the closest good chocolate cakes are in Shanghai…

Goodbye, chocolate cakes.

Other places that have also closed lately include the stand that used to sell taiyaki (Japanese pastries with a red bean filling and shaped like a fish) and an ice cream shop that was within walking distance from our apartment. We liked walking there on summer evenings and Baby A. had his first taste of ice cream there last year. Now I have to check if the other ice cream shop we sometimes go is still open, if they also closed down then I don’t know where to get Italian style ice cream anymore…

Goodbye, taiyaki. We ate you for the last time last March.

Goodbye, ice cream.

Last weekend I also saw that a noodle shop in our street has also closed and a butcher shop or something like that is going to open there soon. A hot pot restaurant also closed at the beginning of the epidemic. I guess eating from a soup where everybody was dipping their chopsticks wasn’t the best of ideas at that time. Now a Family Mart (a convenience store similar to a 7/11) is going to open there.

It is obvious by now that many small businesses, particularly those selling non essential products, have had to close after the epidemic. At least in China people seem to open and close businesses very easily, but I’m not sure how other countries will deal with this.

Lightning speed: A month ago this was still Awfully Chocolate, now it’s a fancy stuffed animals store.