Covid-19 puts love on hold

The Citizen (KZN) - - World -

– It was sup­posed to be a whirl­wind tour of China for Jiang Lanyi’s boyfriend: clas­si­cal gar­dens in Suzhou, mod­ern art in Shang­hai, ice-skat­ing in Bei­jing.

In­stead, the 24-year-old and her Ukrainian part­ner have spent more than two weeks holed up in her par­ents’ house in north­east Liaon­ing prov­ince to avoid the coronaviru­s.

Cou­ples around China set­tled for a quiet Valen­tine’s Day this year, with Covid-19 in­trud­ing as an un­wel­come third-wheel in ro­man­tic cel­e­bra­tions.

The new dis­ease has in­fected nearly 64 000 peo­ple and killed more than 1 350 in China, trig­ger­ing trans­port re­stric­tions, restau­rant shut­downs and the clo­sure of ma­jor tourist sites.

Busi­nesses around the coun­try, from florists to con­cert halls, closed shop and axed events, leav­ing cou­ples with no choice but to spend the night in.

For Jiang and her boyfriend, that meant a lot of mahjong.

“We play two to three hours ev­ery day,” said Jiang, who met her part­ner, a tech en­tre­pre­neur, while study­ing in Lon­don.

“Hav­ing started learn­ing from zero, he’s now very skilled,” she said.

In Bei­jing, Valen­tine’s Day specials aimed at cou­ples – from a My Heart Will Go On con­cert to a 1 688 yuan (R3 500) lob­ster din­ner for two – were can­celled.

Valen­tine’s Day this year “won’t be that dif­fer­ent from daily life un­der quar­an­tine”, said Tyra Li, who lives in Bei­jing with her boyfriend of nearly three years.

Since Lu­nar New Year, aside from a trip to see fam­ily, the cou­ple has only left the house to buy gro­ceries. They don’t even or­der food de­liv­ery for fear of in­fec­tion, she said.

“There def­i­nitely won’t be any flow­ers,” the 33-year-old said. “I don’t dare to re­ceive them and he doesn’t dare to buy them.”

The risk of in­fec­tion, which has left most lovers house-bound, has bat­tered Valen­tine’s Day sales for busi­nesses hop­ing to cash in on love.

Flower shop Xian Hua Ge in Bei­jing said sales plunged by up to 70% from last year – partly be­cause many have not re­turned to the city to work.

Lu Ting, chief China econ­o­mist at No­mura, said the “re­turn rate” of work­ers for China’s four Tier-1 cities was only 19.4% as of 9 Fe­bru­ary, far be­low 66.7% a year ago.

A worker at Ro­manti Fresh Flow­ers said sales had dropped 50% in part be­cause cus­tomers were fear­ful of virus trans­mis­sion via de­liv­ery staff, while another shop said they had “no stock”.

China’s wed­ding in­dus­try has also taken a hit, with the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment urg­ing cou­ples to de­lay their nup­tials ear­lier this month.

Zhu He, 25, who down­sized her wed­ding due to virus fears last month, said she and her fi­ance had orig­i­nally planned to get mar­ried on Valen­tine’s Day.

That’s been de­layed due to the epi­demic, said Zhu. – AFP

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