Just before 9 am, on a weekday, half a dozen cars line up to enter this mega shopping center on the outskirts of Luanda. Usually busy, the movement is now weak after the sanitary fence imposed last week forced 300 stores to close for three days.
At the entrance, the vehicles are sprayed by a disinfection team and the temperature of the occupants of the vehicles is measured, which also cross a disinfectant carpet before entering the commercial complex.
The "city", with a diverse clientele, who come to the place attracted by low prices, is well organized. There are parking spaces, wide streets, "neighborhoods" differentiated according to the products and services they offer: sale of bales (used clothing), furniture, appliances and electronic products, clothing and footwear, auto parts, but also supermarkets and restaurants. and even banks.
In the colorful advertisements, which top the store entrances and decorate the streets, Chinese characters are used together with the Portuguese language, but the City of China welcomes different nationalities, including Portugal.
Emanuel Lello, in Angola for 11 years, currently the only Portuguese trader at the site, says that "the difference is striking" compared to last week in an unusually quiet China Town, nevertheless excusing himself to establish a causal relationship with about.
"Many people still think we are around. I think it will eventually return to normal, but I think there are other factors in the economy that are also dragging down sales," he added, also pointing to the "drastic reduction" of the power of purchase.
Its lubricant store, which imports from Portugal, employs 12 people and has been in the city of China since it opened.
"We saw the project to be built, we visited and we were among the first to rent. We were well received," said the Portuguese, assuming that there have been "some stones in the way" due to the pandemic.
Emanuel Lello stressed that "the City of China is much better prepared than other markets to face a pandemic situation", referring to security control and "constant health control", despite the two identified cases.
The same "void" found the Lebanese Mohamed Menem, in Angola 15 years ago, who settled in the City of China four months ago enticed by the movement and by the "excellent management of the administration", variety and good prices of the products: "it became a point of reference for all layers of customers, everyone comes here ".
But now "it is empty, people are still afraid", said the trader, considering that it does not make sense if compared with the number of cases that have been found in the markets.
"The movement is 20 percent normal, but I believe that in a few days we will have a better movement and soon we will return to what was before," said Mohamed Menem, in his store, where he sells clothing and other products "imported from the United States" as you insist on stressing.
Tina Yang, owner of a decoration store, also stressed that the business is not going as well as in the past and stressed that all traders adopt preventive measures.
"Because of the pandemic, all stores have lost, our goal is to always be open because we have employees to support and they also have to support families, but our first objective is to defend life," he said.
Asked if she has been experiencing difficulties paying the rent, she said she has "confidence in supporting the City of China administration".
After the two cases of infection "there were many clients who were afraid to come", but Tina Yang said that there are preventive measures in place.
Outside, there are a few, few customers, like Maria Salomé who carries a burden on her head. "I came to buy dresses," he told Lusa, adding that he was going to resell them in a market. "Thank God they've already removed the fence," he said, adding: "This is where I get bread for my children, I always come here, the price is better".
Maria Salomé guaranteed that the space is well prepared against the coronavirus: "Before entering I wash my hands, there is alcohol gel, without a mask you cannot enter the warehouse. I am not afraid because everything is organized".
Télson Sebastião, a worker from the City of China, came to accompany a family member in the purchase of a burden, and also notes that the movement is weak.
"Before we went into quarantine there were more floods, when they closed to be able to test we found the weakest movement, we can understand that people are afraid of this disease", said the young man.
Télson "is afraid" of covid-19, but he needs his livelihood and cannot stay at home. "I use my means of prevention, I always use the mask and the alcohol gel", he guarantees, showing a small portable disinfectant, also pointing out that "there is organization" in China City and the security guards are very strict in their work.