Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has now killed more than twice as many people as the 2003 SARS epidemic.
In mainland China, over 70 000 cases have been confirmed as of this morning, and 1 770 people have lost their lives.
You should also spare a thought for the South Africans currently quarantined in China, many of whom are trapped in a nationwide lockdown.
Despite the fact that the virus hasn’t made its way to our shores, the effects are being felt in business.
The west coast rock lobster industry in South Africa has really taken a knock. Per TimesLIVE:
More than 90% of SA’s lobster catch is sold to China, where imports have ground to a standstill.
This has forced lobster fishing to a virtual halt, with potentially devastating impacts on poor coastal communities that rely on the crustaceans, particularly along the west coast.
Hazel Wickham of the Cape Lobster Export Association says that orders from China ceased completely on the evening of January 24.
“We had shipments on the plane when instruction came through from China — no more shipments.”
Wickham said most lobsters were exported alive. “Most of the tanks are full and people have been told to stop fishing,” she said. “If you are in Lambert’s Bay or Doring Bay, what else do you go and do if you can’t fish?”
Crisis talks are underway in Cape Town between key industry stakeholders and fisheries department officials.
Stakeholders said China’s insatiable demand for live lobster — they are displayed in tanks at restaurants and markets — and huge share of export volumes have made SA especially vulnerable to the unprecedented coronavirus shutdown. China also imports a large volume of frozen lobster tails. Australia, similarly affected, has slashed rock lobster catches.
Lobster isn’t the only export suffering. The Chinese shutdown has also destroyed the market for abalone and oysters:
Veteran Lambert’s Bay fisherman Gerrit Africana said the market collapse was unprecedented. “This thing has really hit us hard — our boats are standing still. I have been working 39 years in the sea and it is just this year [to see this],” he said.
To read more testimony about the crisis, head here.
The only positive thing to come out of this is that the abalone poaching industry has been affected, along with illegal smuggling.
Meanwhile, scientists are testing the blood of patients who survived the infection to try and find a cure or vaccine.
Let’s hope they make some progress, soon.
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