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Feb 6, 2020

A Belizean Perspective on the Effects of Novel Coronavirus in China

The death toll due to the novel corona virus continues to climb; it is reported that more than five hundred and fifty persons have died since the outbreak in Wuhan, China.  More than thirty thousand others are reportedly infected, most of them from China. Locally, travel to China and from China is not recommended by the Ministry of Health while in other countries, there is a ban.  Earlier today, we spoke via Skype to a Belizean who lives and owns a business in one of the provinces. Lilian Molina is currently in Bali, Indonesia on vacation.  Here is News Five’s Duane Moody.



Duane Moody, Reporting

It’s been three weeks since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China—population eleven million. To date, about five hundred and sixty persons—primarily, the vulnerable older population whose immune systems were low—have died as a result of the virus. But there are many more who recovering with medication and millions who have managed take measures to prevent contracting the virus.

While the rest of the world is in frenzy, in Mainland China, the government has built a new hospital in days and in the respective provinces has imposed travelling bans, while businesses have shutdown in an effort to prevent the spread to other areas.


Lilian Molina

Lilian Molina, Belizean Living in China

“The majority of the virus itself has actually been affected within Wuhan, not so much outside of that province. So granted what the government has done is that they have shutdown every single province; there is not too much transportation within each province because they are actually contain the virus. What the government has basically been advising people to do is to wear masks when you are outside, you are also to wash your hands thoroughly—ideally every hour or so—not to have much contact with people and also not to be in areas that have too many people, large public areas.”


Lilian Molina has been living in China for over a decade. Originally from Belize, Molina first travelled to study in Taiwan back in 2004 and now resides in Shanghai, China where she recently opened a restaurant, 501 Eats that features cuisine from across the Caribbean, including Belize. She’s the owner and head chef. Molina says that the outbreak is creating panic and is having an adverse effect on businesses, tourism and other sectors.


Lilian Molina

“People are now scared to actually leave homes so the way it is affecting it is not just my restaurant, but also many businesses in China is in that we are not able to conduct business the way that we were. The F and B industry in China is a very large industry; there are a lot of different restaurants from different types of cuisines. Unfortunately for us, the way how I have been affected is that I am not getting as much people coming into the restaurant or in this case, the management of the building where my restaurant is actually located, has requested that we shut down instead due to the fact that they do not want to put anyone in danger. It’s affected me a lot in terms of my business; it has affected me in terms of the finances that I am supposed to be getting from the business itself, having to pay salaries, having to pay rent and such. But it is not just me, so many other industries as well. When this entire news broke out, Chinese people would tend to go back home to the province where they are usually from to spend time with their families. But because they are there, they are not able to enter back into Shanghai, which is where I am located. So it has caused issues in terms of transportation, it’s caused issues in terms of people wanting to go back to work. But also because the government is trying to make sure that this virus is not spread, what they have done is that they have extended the spring festival this year to an additional two weeks.”


A lot of international flights going in and out of China have been cancelled and there many countries that have put in place screening for those who have travelled to China or other countries where the virus has been detected. The Government of China has issued a statement to say that work is to resume on February tenth.  Molina is also President of the Caribbean Association in China. She says that there are currently about sixteen Belizeans living in that Asian country.


Lilian Molina

“I also manage a group of the Belizeans living in China. There’s many of us, there are only around sixteen so far that I am aware of—a mix of students, a mix of business people and people who are just living there. In regards to how we are, as Belizeans, we are actually okay.”


The novel coronavirus has been categorized as a zoonotic disease—that it jumps from animals to humans—and scientists have linked its cause to the consumption of wildlife such as bats and snakes. Being that she is in the food and beverage industry, we asked Molina about this.


Lilian Molina

“To be honest, this is the first time that I have heard of any place or any market that’s actually selling any of these types of animals. I believe, in fact I am pretty sure that this was actually an illegal sell. This originally started from a vendor who was not selling legally these animals—first of all these were not legal animals for him to sell and this is where the outbreak came. I have been living in China for about fifteen years, almost sixteen years now and I have never come across in the cuisine that China has, any of these animals at all. I have never been offered this type of food before. I think that the panic and hysteria that’s happening is fuelled a lot buy racism and xenophobia.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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