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China Virus Outbreak Dominates Discussions on Weibo

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What’s on Weibo editor-in-chief Manya Koetse joined BBC World News live on January 24th to comment on the social media environment in China during the coronavirus outbreak.

Watch the short segment here.

For more about the Coronavirus, please click here.

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China Local News

On Wuhan’s ‘Reopening Day’, Even Traffic Jams Are Celebrated

As the COVID-19 lockdown has ended in Wuhan, many people are happy to see the city’s traffic finally getting busy again: “I hated traffic jams before, now it makes me happy to see them.”

Manya Koetse

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It was chilly and grey in Wuhan when the coronavirus epicenter city went into a full lockdown on January 23 of this year. On April 8, 76 days later, it is sunny and twenty degrees warmer outside as people leave their homes to resume work or go for a stroll.

The end of the Wuhan lockdown is a special day for many, as the city finally lifted the 11-week-long ban that shut down all travel to and from the city in a radical effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, city residents returned to work as public transport started again. Roads, bridges, and tunnels were reopened, and the local airport resumed flights.

On Chinese social media, various hashtags relating to the Wuhan lockdown end have become popular topics. Using hashtags such as “Wuhan Lifts the Ban” (#武汉解封#), “Wuhan Open Again after 76 Days” (#武汉暂停76天后重启#), and “Wuhan Reopens” (#武汉重启#), the end of the coronavirus ban is a much-discussed news item, along with the spectacular midnight light show that was organized to celebrate the city’s reopening.

The Wuhan lightshow, image via Xinhua.

“Today has finally arrived! It’s been difficult for the people of Wuhan,” some commenters write.

According to China’s official statistics, that are disputed, over 3330 people have died from the new coronavirus since its outbreak; 80% of these fatal cases were reported in Wuhan. On April 6, authorities claimed that for the first time since the virus outbreak, there were zero new COVID-19 deaths.

Some state media, including People’s Daily, report that the reopening of restaurants and food shops is going smoothly in the city, as people – for the first time since January – are back to buying pan-fried dumplings and noodles from their favorite vendors.

Meanwhile, the fact that the traffic in some Wuhan areas is back to being somewhat congested is something that is widely celebrated on social media.

Some call the mild traffic congestions “great”, viewing it as a sign that the city is coming back to life again after practically turning into a ghost town for all these weeks.

“I hated traffic jams before, now it makes me happy to see them,” one Weibo commenter writes.

“I won’t complain about congested traffic again, because it’s a sign the streets are flourishing,” another Weibo user posted.

While netizens and media outlets are celebrating the end of the lockdown, several Chinese media accounts also remind people on social media that although the ban has been lifted, people still need to be vigilant and refrain from gathering in groups and standing close to each other.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
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China Food & Drinks

Post-Covid19 Outbreak Reopening: Haidilao Hotpot Dinners Just Got Pricier

“My wages have gone down, Haidilao’s prices have gone up,” – netizens criticize Haidilao’s price surge after its reopening.

Manya Koetse

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China’s number one hotpot chain has quietly raised its prices after its post-coronacrisis reopening, much to the dissatisfaction of hotpot-loving netizens: “While my wages have gone down, Haidilao’s rates have gone up.”

Huddling around the simmering hotpot was perhaps one of the last things on people’s minds during the coronavirus outbreak, but now that malls and restaurants are gradually getting back to business in China, the hotpot has been put back on the table – although not exactly the same as before.

Since closing its doors in late January, Haidilao, China’s most popular hotpot chain, is one of the restaurants reopening after the coronavirus outbreak. By mid March, it had reopened 85 locations in 15 cities across China, Caixin Global reports. Earlier this week, the chain also opened its doors again in Beijing.

Different from the pre-COVID-19 days, Haidilao restaurants now have fewer seats and there is an increased distance between dining tables.

Each table now can have no more than three guests and all tables have a distance of minimally one meter in between them. Customers also need to use hand sanitizer and have their body temperature checked before entering the restaurant.

Due to the restaurant’s limited tables and increased labor costs, its menu prices have gone up. Haidilao’s quiet price increase became a trending topic on Weibo this week under the hashtag “Haidilao’s Prices Rise Approximately 6% After Reopening” (#海底捞复工后涨价约6%#). One news post about the topic received around 224,000 likes and over 12,000 comments.

“It wasn’t cheap [to eat here] to begin with,” some commenters complain: “Now it’s even more expensive.” The restaurant’s exact price surge differs per region.

Haidilao, which opened its first restaurant over 25 years ago, is the dominant hotpot chain in mainland China. By late 2019, the chain had 768 locations in China.

The restaurant is known for its Sichuan hotpot with an innovative strategy: high-service, high-tech, and high-quality. The restaurant is so popular that customers often wait in line for one or two hours in order to get a table.

Despite people’s general appreciation of Haidilao, most netizens argue that the chain’s price surge is a bad move, mentioning that due to the coronavirus crisis, “many people have lost their jobs,” and that it is unfortunate that “food prices are rising, while we don’t get our wages.”

“My wages have gone down, Haidilao’s prices have gone up. I just wanna cry,” some commenters say.

Many Weibo users mention that Haidilao is a big company that already had relatively high prices, saying a price increase in these times is unfair to customers.

“I could tolerate it if my wages would also go up,” some write.

An online poll held by news outlet Sina asked Weibo users if they could accept Haidilao’s 6% price increase. Among the 122,000 respondents, 16,000 answered they were okay with it, while an absolute majority of 77,000 said they could not accept the surge.*

“They have the right to raise their prices, we have the freedom to stop eating there,” some write: “I won’t go there anymore.”

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
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*(other replies to choose from included “it has nothing to do with me” or “other answer”),

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