COVID-19 changes Chinese' hygiene, dining etiquette – maybe permanently

By Li Lei and Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/20 11:35:09

People wear face masks and dance in a square of Changchun, capital of Northeast China's Jilin Province. Photo: IC

As preventing the novel coronavirus has fostered hygiene-consciousness among the public, some Chinese people may stop eating hotpot in restaurants and abandon their finger-guessing drinking game that has lasted for some 2,000 years.

In addition to social distancing, some hygiene practices to prevent the novel coronavirus has become a part of daily life in China, fostering a wave of new social civilization in the country.

"The pandemic might change people's hygiene habits as it now feels like I am streaking if I forget to wear face mask," a web user said in his Sina Weibo account, China's Twitter-like social media platform.

A questionnaire survey conducted by the China Youth Daily among 2,006 interviewees in the middle of April shows 66.5 percent interviewees fostered good hygiene habits during the COVID-19 epidemic.

The Beijing Disease Prevention and Control Center released a statement on Sunday saying citizens may not wear face masks when they do outdoor exercises. However, most people still choose to wear face masks wherever they go.

"I would wash my hands every time before I touch my face, I bring alcohol pads all the time, and clean tableware before eating in the restaurant," Wang Lele, a Beijing resident, told the Global Times.

"I take a small bottle of alcohol in my bag as I feel uncomfortable to touch things without wiping them with alcohol," said another citizen interviewed by the Global Times.

Another resident at the age of 50 said he used to smoke a lot, but the pandemic makes him want to quit. "Before, I would occasionally spit on the street, but now I stopped doing that as people would avoid me like I am infectious which makes me feel ashamed," he said.

A new rule in Beijing stipulates that people should cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing in public, and patients with respiratory diseases such as the flu must wear face mask and are banned from eating on public transportation.

New etiquette

The pandemic also made more people to adopt a more separated eating habit even during banquets amid rising recognition to social distancing.

Beijing is set to include a separating plate during banquets, and use serving chopsticks and spoons, which will go into effect on June 1.

Du Cheng, a person in charge of a branch of Jindingxuan restaurant chain in Sanlitun area of downtown Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday that the restaurant has been recommending customers to separate plate since it reopened eat-in service.

"When two or more people eat together, we would recommend them to separate plates," said Du. 

The restaurant also requires customers to disinfect their hands before eating.

"In the beginning, many people would resist as it goes against most Chinese people's dinning habits of sharing food," said the manager, adding that later people would initiatively require separating plates.

Each customer would be given two pairs chopsticks in different colors when they choose not to separate plate. "Black chopsticks are used to pick up food from the big plates, and the white ones are used to send food to the mouth," Du explained.

Two pairs of chopsticks in different colors are provided to customers in a Beijing restaurant, with one pair used as serving chopsticks. Photo: Li Lei/GT

As a result of separate plate and small table dinning, the loud finger-guessing game most men play when drinking has ceased, said Du.

Xiabu Xiabu, a chained hotpot restaurant in China has seen much fewer customers dining in even after Beijing lifted its first level public health response on April 30. 

Tong Xueling, a manager of a Xiabu Xiabu located in Guijie, Beijing's famous prosperous snack street, told the Global Times that before the pandemic, a long queue would be seen in front at dinner time, and now only few people can be seen in the restaurant as most people choose to order online and eat at home.

The same situation happened in popular hotpot chain Haidilao. Reporter of the Global Times noticed that serving chopsticks are provided in these two hotpot chains.

Wu Hao, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and head of the Fangzhuang community health service center in Beijing, proposed that new lifestyles adapted to cope with and contain COVID-19 should be kept even after the pandemic. 

"Measures such as social distancing, washing hands frequently, garbage classification, wearing masks during flu season, pre-registering online when visiting hospitals and online diagnosis should all be promoted after the pandemic," Wu, also the head of the expert team on community prevention and control of COVID-19 who fought the epidemic Wuhan in February, told the Global Times. 

"We should turn these new measures into 'new normal,' as it's possible that the virus could exist for years and we cannot really eliminate the disease for good," Wu said. 

China has designated April as the Patriotic Health Month since more than three decades ago to promote awareness about public health, and Wu said that the patriotic health campaign should be promoted regularly, not just for one month each year. He proposed to mobilize all residents to actively participate in the regular campaign and say no to bad habits.

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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