Usually, the centuries-old Chinatowns from Melbourne to San Francisco have become quiet, and companies are struggling to survive as the fear of the fatal outbreak of the novel corona virus spreads around the world.
"Panicking is widespread," complains Max Huang, owner of the Juicy Bao restaurant in Melbourne's historic Chinese district. "Customers won't come in if they can avoid it."
Huang's restaurant is in the midst of dozens of restaurants that form Australia's oldest enclave in Chinatown, dating back to the influx of seekers during a gold rush in the 1850s.
Although the epicenter of the COVID-19 epidemic is more than ten hours' flight away and Australia has seen only a handful of cases, the stigma of an illness that killed more than 1,500 people is widespread.
The streets are much quieter, face masks are the order of the day, and even a dragon dance for the New Year didn't bring the usual crowds.
Companies report that their earnings have dropped by more than half and they have been forced to cut working hours drastically, a situation repeated in Chinatowns around the world.
Getting a table is now a breeze in the normally lively Empire Seafood Restaurant in Vancouver's Richmond suburb.
"Normally we would have a long line-up time of around five to ten tables, but today there is no line-up at all," said deputy general manager Ivan Yeung.
"Some people have already canceled their parties and banquets. Many restaurants see the same thing. Hopefully this will be normal again soon."
A ban on travelers from China has hit many parts of the city particularly hard.
"Usually Chinese tourists come at this time, but now it's like zero," said Tony Siu, manager of the popular Cantonese restaurant R&G Lounge in San Francisco.
"You often get the sea bass or the salt and pepper crabs, which are our famous dishes."
In Australia, the travel ban was tightened by nearly 100,000 Chinese students who were unable to fly down under at the beginning of the academic year.
"Our main customers are from China … (above) it is very difficult," said Su Yin, whose pancake shop is down at a Melbourne college with a large Chinese student base.
Hoping to reassure potential customers, some companies have suggested that they regularly disinfect their interiors to prevent disease.
Others went a step further to install hand disinfectants for guests and give face masks and rubber gloves to employees.
However, such measures seem to have had limited success.
Rebecca Lyu, a Chinese student living in London, has a hard time convincing friends to eat or shop with her.
"Some of my friends refused to eat in Chinatown restaurants because they were worried about the virus," she said.
Many believe that xenophobia has further worsened the situation.
Fred Lo's gift shop in San Francisco is usually visited by tourists from Europe and South America.
But "there have been far fewer people in the past two weeks, at least 50 percent fewer, even though no one is ill or even in China," he said, adding that the business was as bad as it had been since he started working there in 1975 ,
"It is unfair that many people are afraid of the Chinese," said Eddie Lau, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne. "We tell people: & # 39; We're fine, don't be afraid. & # 39;
In London, David Tang said he had clearly noticed that others were avoiding him in the past few weeks, but understood why people were afraid and tried to accept it.
"I take the train every morning. Last week one day everyone was standing and I have a free seat next to me," he said. "I laughed about it."