China Malls shut down shops as Covid-19 fears escalate
On Wednesday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize confirmed six new coronavirus cases in the country, bringing the total number of infections to 13. The new cases are people who have travelled back to South Africa from Europe.
Four of them are in Gauteng, one person in KwaZulu-Natal and another in the Western Cape.
“Those who are symptomatic have started receiving treatment. Some of these patients are already in hospital while others, specifically those who are asymptomatic, are in self-quarantine.
"Contact tracing has also started for all these cases. It is also noteworthy that to date, 642 tests have been conducted,” the minister said. The World Health Organisation has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic
Despite Mkhize's calls for citizens not to panic, Joburg shops that have direct business interests with China, the epicentre of the virus, have been hit hard in their pockets.
At least 10 shops have closed at the mall in Bruma since the virus broke out about two months ago and it is feared that other malls would shut down should the virus persist.
The mall has 317 shops.
A few kilometres away to the west of Joburg, some foreign shop owners at the Dragon City Mall in Crown Mines have been waiting for the shipment of the merchandise from China for two months and have not been able to trade and their businesses are facing closure.
Most shop owners and employees at the Bruma mall have resorted to wearing face masks and kept reporting for duty daily despite dwindling customers at the centre.
The mall's manager, Angelique Schultz, said they were taking necessary precautions to sterilise their shops and the whole of the mall to prevent this virus from entering their premises.
“Coronavirus is definitely a problem for business, it is very bad. We haven't checked the actual totals, but as you can see the mall is empty. Normally Saturdays and Sundays are our busiest days but it has been empty.
"As you can see, our employees are idling, hoping for a miracle,” Schultz said.
“If the coronavirus numbers continue to rise the mall will have to be shut down until this virus outbreak is under control,” she said.
At the Dragon City Mall, staff and a few shoppers were also wearing masks and gloves to protect themselves.
Shop owners expressed concern about stock from China being halted, which has crippled their trading for the past few weeks.
“Stock is very slow and its affecting business. Our stock got cancelled before the Chinese New year,” she said.
The management of Dragon City could not comment on the effects of the coronavirus within the businesses, saying that they could not discuss information regarding the virus and their business currently.
The constant fear of the virus has extended to the Chinese Consulate offices at Sandton City. The office is usually busy with travellers and business people seeking visas to go to China, but yesterday there was not even a single person making an application when The Star visited in the morning.
The staff had been wearing masks and gloves while seated at their working stations.
Elsewhere, SANDF aircraft on a mission to repatriate more than 100 SA citizens from Wuhan in China, left the country on Tuesday night, along with 15 officials from the Department of Health and defence personnel.
SANDF spokesperson Simphiwe Dlamini said R20million was given to Parliament as per requirement of the deployment of the troops in any mission, be it internally or externally.
Dlamini added that those being repatriated had made the request to the government. They will have to pay their own costs to return to China when the virus is under control.
“They will sign disclaimers that stipulate all that they need to know and their responsibilities thereof and those of government,” Dlamini said.