“This street is considered a top location in Wuhan,” Zhu added. “Now there is no one about. You can imagine that other locations are even worse.”
The only queue within several hundred metres was outside a pharmacy, where people waited to stock up on medicines to treat the symptoms of COVID-19.
“My business is struggling to stay afloat,” said the owner of a bag store on nearby Hanzheng Street, home to one of China’s biggest wholesale clothing markets and the site of a large anti-lockdown protest last month.
“We have to see what happens next year … ,” added the 48-year-old, surnamed Liang. “We have to see what the footfall will be like. If things are still the same next year, vendors will have to leave.”
Many other shopkeepers simply told Reuters they had zero or “no business”.
The scarcity of customers is having a knock-on effect on other industries, further hurting growth as China grapples with an economic downturn this year.
“There are not many new stores opening and not many new businesses starting, so our business cannot get going and we are facing layoffs,” said Huang, the owner of an advertising business who asked to be identified only by his surname.
People just do not have much money anymore, said a Wuhan taxi driver, surnamed Sun, adding that subsidies had made the 2020 lockdown more manageable than this year’s measures.
“With all these lockdowns I’ve earned nothing for weeks,” he said. “Now, it’s a tiny bit better, but I can only make enough to pay back the company my monthly taxi rental fee.”
Surveys have shown factory activity shrank in November amid widespread COVID curbs, while exports and imports fell at their steepest pace in at least 2-1/2 years, piling more pressure on the slowing economy.
Zhiwu Chen, a finance professor at the University of Hong Kong, said he felt authorities hoped the infections would usher in sufficient immunity within three or four months, allowing small and medium -sized businesses to rebound.
“Of course in the process the country will suffer from the shock therapy,” he added.
“I hope they will be able to sustain the shock.”