We're on the steady road back to normality

Li Qian
This is how Jing'an looks in April as its resumes an air of normality. Roads are crowded again, with traffic jams in peak hours. 
Li Qian
We're on the steady road back to normality
Xiao Mingliang / Ti Gong

A florist tends to her garden stock at a shop on Dagu Road. 

We're on the steady road back to normality
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Residents begin returning to local eateries and reading rooms. 

We're on the steady road back to normality
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

This is how Jing’an looks in April as its resumes an air of normality. Roads are crowded again, with traffic jams in peak hours. People queue outside popular eateries. But as business resumption gathers pace, everyone is still wearing a face mask.

Elaine Xu, an office worker at Plaza 66, said she likes to get a McDonald's combo for breakfast as she leaves Nanjing Road W. Metro Station for the 10-minute walk to work.

“When I saw the outlet reopened, I couldn’t wait to order a breakfast meal that I had missed so much,” Xu said. “It made me feel that my life has returned to normal.”

When she enters the McDonald’s, some 10 white-collar workers are already waiting for their breakfasts. Two or three food deliverymen are busy getting on their mopeds to take orders to customers.

Not far away, people line up outside the WangJiaSha eatery, an old, popular Shanghai dim sum shop, to buy steamed buns. Most of them are senior citizens living nearby.

“I have long eaten WangJiaSha’s steamed buns for breakfast,” said 63-year-old Wang. “I love the buns with meat and vegetable stuffing. It takes me back to my childhood and makes me feel happy.”

WangJiaSha reopened in February, mainly catering to loyal customers and takeaway services.

The food mall on the B2 floor of the Reel Department Store is a popular lunch spot for local office workers. Like most food venues, it does good business.

“I work in an office upstairs,” said Lilian Li, who came to the food mall with several colleagues. “I have kept a close eye on the pandemic, and I think Shanghai is doing a great job. Last month, there were still very few people here, but recently it seems to be getting back to normal. I feel no concern about health safety now.”

Du Qun, manager of the department store, said popular eateries have resumed brisk business.

“Some eateries have even had people queuing up,” Du said.

At an eatery specializing in Japanese cuisine, people used to have to wait about half an hour for a seat during the lunchtime rush. Recently, the wait has been more like 10 minutes.

“I visit this eatery about once a week,” said a white-collar worker surnamed Wu. “Even if I have to wait, I think it’s worth it.”

According to Du, previous restrictions required customers to stay one meter apart, but that has been lifted. Diners are encouraged to use separate chopsticks and spoons for serving and eating.

At the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Nanjing Road W., queues were common every day before the COVID-19 outbreak. After the venue reopened, crowds thinned but its popularity remained.

“I am used to taking my laptop and a Starbucks cup of coffee while I work,” said Samuel Lin, who works at HKRI Taikoo Hui. “As the pandemic eases, I can once again go out and work in the sunshine.”

On a back wall, Starbucks has posted notices: “Welcome back!” “Happy to see you again! and “Be strong like coffee!”

Mao Ting, operating manager at the outlet, said she is gratified by the public response since reopening.

“I was worried about the business,” she said. “But our loyal customers have given us confidence for the future.”

The outlet still follows strict hygiene rules, such requiring customers to have their body temperatures taken and show their green health codes

Dagu Road, a backstreet of Nanjing Road W., is dotted with restaurants and bars. It’s a daytime rendezvous for foreigners and a popular nightlife spot. The pandemic stopped commerce, but venues on the road have joined hands to fight back.

“We have to save ourselves,” said Zhang Jian, who is in charge of the road’s store alliance. “Our 70 members are offering help to one another. For example, a hair salon distributes leaflets for nearby pizzeria. Customers can order takeaway meals while in the salon.”

The alliance also worked to convince landlords to give local shops rental relief. About 70 percent of venues were granted a one-month rent reprieve, valued at 2 million yuan (US$282,000).

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