New York businesses hit by coronavirus fears

EYEAFRICA TV: New York City, USA: Four Chinese passengers aboard a cruise ship docked near New York City have been taken to nearby hospitals to be screened for the novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP). Although the Royal Caribbean ship is docked less than 20 kilometers away in New Jersey, fear of the virus is taking its toll on New York businesses.

During the lunchtime at the Nom Wah Tea Parlor, a Chinese restaurant in New York, owner Wilson Tang said since the coronavirus outbreak some days his business has been crushed.

“Our wait staff almost were like what do we do right now because typically they’ve got something going on but like there were so less people in the dining room. We were all twiddling our thumbs and waiting to see what’s happening,” said Tang.

It’s not been a good start to the new year in Manhattan’s Chinatown — a huge fire destroyed the archives of the Museum of Chinese In America — and now fear of the new coronavirus means the streets are quieter than usual.

Wellington Chen runs the Chinatown Partnership that aims to bring businesses and community groups together, describing the effect of the virus on businesses in Chinatown.

“Tourism is expected to drop at least 28 percent at the minimum just for the Chinese alone. And cruise ships that are not being allowed to come. The airlines that are not bringing customers here, the whole hotel cancellations, the penalty for canceling the charter buses,” said Chen.

A densely-packed major international city like New York with three big airports, the United Nations, Wall Street and the Broadway theater district make containing coronavirus a challenge.

Dr. Denis Nash is an epidemiologist at the City University of New York. He said the health-care system in New York is second to none, but the worry is when things get out of hand.

“The public health systems can become overwhelmed with the volume of cases with symptoms that need care, the testing that needs to happen and the care that needs to happen subsequently and then the public health work that involves tracing contacts, identifying people that need to be quarantined or isolated and the potential for outbreak like this to overwhelm, the health care systems and the public system is a very real one to be concerned about,” said Nash.

Back at the restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Wilson Tang has a message for people for whom Chinatown is a popular place to hang out, but who are staying away.

“A lot of it is myths and we need to get past that and really bond together and dine out as if you would normally dine out or go out and shop as if you normally would. There’s nothing different and it’s business as usual,” said Tang.

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