Coronavirus fears take significant toll on businesses in Chinatown

BOSTON — The city of Boston has had one confirmed case of novel coronavirus, but the illness has taken a significant toll on businesses in Chinatown.

Health officials say there's no reason to stay away.

City officials say they inspect restaurants in Chinatown just like they do the rest of the city, and the current coronavirus is not airborne and not spread by food.

Passengers who have traveled to affected areas are screened at the airport, so you’re not at any greater risk of getting it here in Chinatown than you are anywhere else.

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As fears of the coronavirus rose, business in Boston’s Chinatown has dropped.

Restaurant and bakery owners here told Boston 25 News that business has been down anywhere from 50 to 70 percent from where it normally is this time of the year, and they believe fear and misinformation about the illness is to blame.

“It’s a little disheartening to see the businesses here suffer," said Lisa Wong of Canton.

A spokeswoman for the city’s health department said in a statement:

We want to stress that although the risk to the general public is low, anyone can get this virus and become sick. The chances of contracting Novel Coronavirus are as low in Chinatown as in any other part of the city."

“I think you can just as much catch the flu at the mall or an Italian restaurant, so I don’t think it’s justified at all,” said Jonathan Moy of Milton.

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City leaders are hoping to encourage people to visit Chinatown by visiting themselves. Members of the city’s Inspectional Services Department had dinner there over the weekend.

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association said in a statement:

It cannot be overstated that all restaurants regardless of the ethnic origin of its owners, or cuisine are required to operate at the same high health standards required by the state of Massachusetts. It is imperative to understand that while anxieties may be high, we should not target any one group, or operate in a climate of fear that is not based on facts."

“We had like 300 people at a Chinese New Year party, we had a great time, no worries,” Wong said.

Moy thinks people shouldn’t be too fearful.

“It is serious but I don’t think that people should have that worry. I just feel like that it’s over the top, we aren’t China, we aren’t Wuhan,” Moy said. “There are a ton of good restaurants, so I think you’re missing out if you letting that keep you inside.”

Keep in mind, the current coronavirus is not an airborne virus. It’s a respiratory virus and doesn’t live on surfaces long, so it spreads just like how the flu does.

And although there is no vaccine right now against the coronavirus, health officials recommend taking precautions such as washing your hands and covering your mouth when you sneeze and cough.

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