Unlike much of the world, Taiwan remains open for business despite COVID-19. But unfortunately, that doesn’t mean there’s much business to do.
It may be hard to remember now, but just a few months ago, Taipei’s Ximending area was a vibrant place, filled with shoppers, tourists, and street performers. These days, it’s just another ghost town, emptied by COVID-19. Many stores have gone under, and it can seem like there are more “for rent” signs than people.
To be clear, shops are still open. Early action and decisive policies have spared Taiwan from a total shutdown. But 90% of business has evaporated. The tourists can’t come and the locals are staying away.
One local drink shop vendor says they used to sell as many as 800 cups in a day. Now, there are times when they sell fewer than a hundred. A vendor who sells the popular Taiwanese street food called luwei has seen a similar slump in business. She says COVID-19 is worse than SARS.
The head of Ximending’s business association says that lately, local souvenir shops can expect to sell less than US$30 worth of merchandise in a day.
Of course, COVID-19’s reach extends far beyond Taipei. In the south of Taiwan, for instance, Tainan’s famous Anping historical district is struggling, too. With so many people here trying to make ends meet, one small restaurant owner has decided to put the community first. She is donating 1500 plates of fried rice through the end of month to help those who can no longer help themselves.