Beijing flower business suffers due to coronavirus outbreak

Beijing florist Cai Xiaoman stands in a darkened, empty shopping mall on the eve of Valentine's Day preparing bouquets.

While wearing a face mask and carefully spraying her hands with alcohol before packaging her flowers, she says she's nervous about the new coronavirus outbreak, but doesn’t want to let down her customers.

(SOUNDBITE)(MANDARIN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) BEIJING FLORIST, CAI XIAOMAN, SAYING:

"I think customers are scared and I'm scared too (about the virus). But I can do nothing because I opened this flower shop for so many years and I have some old customers and I don't want to let them down, so that is why I still open it. Usually I won't open it (amid the virus outbreak). There were lots of people asking me whether they can book flowers already before Valentine's Day."

The outbreak, which has claimed the lives of nearly 1,400 people in China, has led to a 90% sales decline in Cai’s business.

And in a sign of the times - the florist now includes small bottles of hand sanitizer in each bouquet before they're delivered.

(SOUNDBITE)(MANDARIN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) BEIJING FLORIST, CAI XIAOMAN, SAYING:

"There was a customer who ordered a bouquet here, and they asked me whether I could sanitize it before it was delivered. And that inspired me to the following action (to send out hand sanitizer). So I need to thank them for that."

Hubei provence, the epicenter of the outbreak, has been under virtual lockdown since last month, but people in China's capital are also staying at home to avoid exposure, leaving supermarkets and shopping malls empty…

With the full impact of the outbreak still unknown, fear has set in for this business owner...

(SOUNDBITE)(MANDARIN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) BEIJING FLORIST, CAI XIAOMAN, SAYING:

"I hope for this to end soon. I am worried, and I'm a bit scared every day,"

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