Local Chinese businesses feel virus fear

Inventories at Chinatown in Windhoek are dwindling because owners would rather not travel to China for their usual re-stock runs.

17 February 2020 | Business

Clients from Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Oshakati are not coming for now because we only have old stock. - Miang Li, Shop owner: Chinatown

Ndapewoshali Shapwanale - Namibia should by right feel little concern about the coronavirus outbreak given that the sparsely-populated desert country is 12 000 kilometres from China and without a single confirmed case.

But like many countries on the continent, the Southern African nation hosts a big Chinese retail business community with close links to home.

And as the fear of infection spreads, businesses are taking things into their own hands.

A notice in Chinese and English taped to an aluminium shutter on a Chinese-owned shop in Windhoek's Chinatown spells it out: Any merchant returning to Namibia from China "must be quarantined for 14 days and keep the shop closed for that period", state the typed instructions signed by the Chinatown management.

Many shop owners who travelled to China for the year-end break have opted to stay put instead of returning to Windhoek's Chinatown, a vast complex of nearly 200 retail, wholesale, food and electronics outlets in the northern industrial district of the capital.

In one block of 90 shops, 20 stores have not re-opened.

The Chinese community, their embassy and Chinese Chamber of Commerce are trying their "very best to prevent people from returning from China to Namibia ... during this period," said Brian Lee, a businessman.

For those who travel nonetheless "we have already set up a quarantine place outside of Windhoek" where they will be kept until cleared of the virus, but nobody has been taken there yet.

‘Everybody panicking’

"I think everybody is panicking, not just Namibians, also the Chinese community here is panicking as well," said Lee.

Chinatown is usually teeming with shoppers, but not on this Friday afternoon.

Shop owner Miang Li points to people's fear of contracting the virus from the Chinese as a reason for the dropping footfall, although he says mid-month blues - due to low funds between pay cheques - may also be to blame.

"People who come here shout, 'coronavirus, coronavirus'," he told AFP at his clothes store.

Li said inventories are dwindling because owners would rather not travel to China for their usual re-stock runs, instead clearing last year's stock at marked down prices.

"Many of us here only go back in February or March for stock, now it is dangerous to go and come back," he said. "If you go now, you don't know if this country will let you come back."

Chinatown caters to retail shoppers but also sells bulk to online and bricks-and-mortar boutiques in other parts of Namibia.

"Clients from Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Oshakati are not coming for now because we only have old stock," said the 52-year-old who has worked in Namibia for nine years.

Reluctant staff

To make matters worse, some local staff are reluctant to continue working for the Chinese.

Shop attendant Matilda Ndinoshisho, 28, said a workmate had stopped showing up.

"Her uncle and aunt told her the Chinese bosses will give her the virus that is killing all the Chinese and that a N$800 salary is not worth losing her life or infecting the rest of them in the house," and so she quit, said Ndinoshisho.

Namibia has had only one suspected case of coronavirus which turned out to be a false alarm.

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula said the government had medics screening visitors at all entry points into the country.

"Every passenger who is coming into Namibia, whether from China or from any other country in the world, is subjected to a thorough screening," the minister told AFP.

"If anybody displays symptoms of being infected with the virus, that person is isolated immediately and monitored."

Now known by its official designation Covid-19, the virus emerged in central China at the end of last year and has spread across the world.

It has killed more than 1 600 people and sickened 68 000 in China. – Nampa/AFP

Similar News

 

Skorpion, MUN at loggerheads

1 day - 31 March 2020 | Business

Jo-Maré Duddy – The Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) yesterday called for the urgent intervention of president Hage Geingob after Skorpion Zinc Mine and Refinery...

Booze sellers in trouble for defying lockdown

1 day - 31 March 2020 | Business

ILENI NANDJATOPolice in the north have arrested five people who refused to close their informal busi­nesses. One of them is a teacher who owns a...

Company news in brief

1 day - 31 March 2020 | Business

Anglo cancels diamond sales eventAnglo American said yesterday its diamond unit De Beers Group will not hold its third sales event because of lockdowns in...

NAC closes most airports

1 day - 31 March 2020 | Business

ELLANIE SMIT WINDHOEKWhile several regional airports in Namibia have been closed, Hosea Kutako International Airport will remain open as a diversion airport for overflight operations....

Skorpion in care and maintenance

1 day - 30 March 2020 | Business

Skorpion Zinc Mine and Refinery will be placed in care and maintenance during April, the company said in a statement this morning.The move will affect...

Mining faces Covid crunch

2 days ago - 30 March 2020 | Business

Jo-Maré Duddy – Mining and quarrying last year grew by -11.1% and hopes that it would be one of the main drivers of economy recovery...

Selling, buying a business as going concern

2 days ago - 30 March 2020 | Business

Many entrepreneurs at one stage consider buying or selling a business, especially in these challenging economic times. One should consider the VAT implications when deciding...

Company news in brief

2 days ago - 30 March 2020 | Business

Anglo American expects iron, coal hitAnglo American expects output at its Kumba Iron Ore mine in South Africa to fall by up to 3 million...

Govt bails out ‘unproductive’ Kalimbeza

5 days ago - 27 March 2020 | Business

Edward Mumbuu – The Kalimbeza Rice Project in the Zambezi Region - which was on the verge of collapse - has been thrown a N$7.1-million...

Keetmans makes U-turn on street vendors

5 days ago - 27 March 2020 | Business

The Keetmanshoop municipality has agreed to allow street vendors to continue operating amid the Covid-19 outbreak, as it is unable to make up for the...

Latest News

Holes emerge in lockdown plan

2 hours ago | Disasters

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKWith law-enforcement agencies having their hands full monitoring entry into the locked-down Erongo and Khomas regions, an oversight has led to the different routes...

49 now quarantined at Zambezi...

2 hours ago | Disasters

ELLANIE SMIT WINDHOEKAbout 49 Namibians, including immigration officials and students, are in quarantine at the state-owned Zambezi Waterfront Tourism Park in Katima Mulilo. Zambezi governor...

‘Govt must feed us’

2 hours ago | Disasters

ILENI NANDJATOOSHAKATIInformal traders are appealing to the government to feed them after the coronavirus outbreak necessitated the closure of open markets and the halting of...

April 1 no fool’s day...

2 hours ago | History

STAFF REPORTERWINDHOEKThe former chief of staff of Swapo’s armed wing PLAN, Charles Namoloh, says it is time the nation recognised the historical importance of 1...

Samherji’s Fishrot boss back on...

2 hours ago | Fishing

CATHERINE SASMANWINDHOEKThe Icelandic company implicated in the Namibian Fishrot scandal, Samherji, last week announced that its disgraced former CEO, Thorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, would return to...

Agriculture battles coronavirus

2 hours ago | Agriculture

STAFF REPORTER WINDHOEK While the agriculture ministry has gathered all stakeholders to discuss the impact of the coronavirus on the livestock sector, the industrialisation ministry...

Farmers keen on AALS

2 hours ago | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT WINDHOEK There has been a marked interest from farmers, particularly from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, regarding the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS).Agribank's manager for...

Students raise online learning concerns

2 hours ago | Education

Ester KamatiWINDHOEKThe Students Union of Namibia (SUN) wants the University of Namibia (Unam) to reconsider its decision to offer online learning, due to poor internet...

The struggle to get home

2 hours ago | Transport

Ester KamatiWindhoek The owner of a Khomasdal home shop and takeaway, Gerhard van der Westhuizen, says he is concerned about the safety of his staff,...

Load More