BBQ and bathhouses - normal life returns to China Published: 2020/3/30 4:44:21

A chef prepares some Chinese kebabs. Photo: IC

BBQ skewer sales in three of China's northeastern provinces surged over 300 percent, hitting the six million mark, and public bathhouse visits in Jilin Province jumped 60-fold over the past week, according to data from online payment platform Alipay.

Despite the high figures, the information might not mean much to those unfamiliar with public bathhouses, but such data is seen as a reliable indicator of healthy economic activity within the country's traditional industrial base. And this time, they are indicators of how life is returning to normal after weeks of city-wide lockdowns due to the novel coronavirus  (COVID-19) pandemic. 

In the northeastern region, going out for street BBQ and enjoying a hot bath is a time-honored tradition. 

"When public baths and barbeque return to normal, it means long-lost happiness has finally arrived," said one netizen. 

And it's not only people in the Northeast, "happiness" has returned to many across the country, whether they are enthusiastic hot-pot connoisseurs in Southwest China's Sichuan Province or Chongqing Municipality or dim-sum lovers in South China's Guangdong Province.

Over the past few days, social media users have shared pictures of themselves enjoying their favorite street food and beverages.

Nationwide, 80 percent of the country's catering sector reopened, according to data from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on Sunday. Major retailers reported a 7 percent increase in sales revenue between mid-February and mid-March, and some e-commerce platforms reported a 30 percent surge, MOFCOM said.

Even in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, which only recently lifted its lockdown, breakfast joints, fruits stalls, and other shops are reopening at an accelerated pace, according to Alipay. 

On Wednesday, there were 11 percent more shops opened than the previous week, the data revealed.

Still, many remain cautious when going out to eat, let alone taking a public bath with others as COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, and China continues to be hit with imported cases. 

On Saturday, there were 45 new confirmed cases reported on the Chinese mainland, including 44 imported cases and one local case in Central China's Henan Province, Chinese official data revealed. And 902 cases were reported in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.

"This is too early and scary," said one Beijing resident, who is originally from Northeast China's Liaoning Province, referring to the surging barbeque consumption and public bathhouse visits back home.

Aiming to stem a widely feared COVID-19 second wave, Chinese officials have remained consistent in implementing necessary measures that include banning foreign visitors, while gradually reopening the economy with fiscal and policy support for businesses, and particularly for mom-and-pop vendors.  


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