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‘There’s nobody here’: Coronavirus fears impact shoppers and retailers

Coronavirus has infected more than 105,000 worldwide and has killed nearly 3600 people. The federal government is expected to announce billions of dollars in spending to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus, which could leave an extra 100,000 Australians out of work.

Few shoppers could be seen in the centre’s fashion precinct, while staff at many food outlets, some wearing face masks, waited in vain for customers.

Cloris Jiang waits to serve customers at the Koomi yoghurt drink outlet at the Macquarie Centre.

Cloris Jiang waits to serve customers at the Koomi yoghurt drink outlet at the Macquarie Centre.Credit:Steven Siewert

One shopper, who declined to be named, said it was her suspicion that coronavirus fears had led to a “noticeable” decline in visitors to the shopping centre.

“I have not seen any incidents of racism towards Asian people,” she said.

Sandy Zhang, who operates the Koomi yoghurt drink outlet, said she was worried about the future of her business, which she said had seen a 70 per cent drop in customers. “It’s a lot quieter since last month,” she said.

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Staff members wearing face masks at the nearby King Tea outlet also reported business was “very quiet” and expressed concern about the future of their jobs.

AMP Capital, which manages 28 shopping centres including the Macquarie Centre, declined to provide customer or sales figures.

“Over the past week, we have seen a slight increase in foot traffic and we are hearing mixed reports from retailers regarding sales,” a spokeswoman said. “This is consistent with other assets we manage.”

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She said the centre’s management was following the advice of health authorities, but had received no instructions in relation to the Macquarie Centre: “However, we remain diligent in our cleaning processes.”

“The health and safety of everyone visiting and working at Macquarie Centre is our primary focus, as we continue to create a safe and welcoming experience,” she said.

Ferrie Alinoori, who operates a food cart selling Mexican cuisine, said the shopping centre was much quieter, with fewer children, than the previous weekend.

“There’s nobody here,” he said. “Today, from morning to now, I don’t sell anything.”

Mr Alinoori said he was preparing to move his food cart and “I believe it will be bad in the next month”.

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Located near two supermarkets, Mr Alinoori said he had seen a number of shoppers who had purchased large quantities of items such as toilet paper.

Empty shelves greeted customers in Coles, which appeared to have sold out of toilet paper, tissues and paper towels as well as rice, pasta and noodles. In contrast, large pallets of toilet paper were parked in aisles at Woolworths.

Pushing a trolley filled with toilet paper, tissues and a large bag of rice, Ronald Kwong said he was replenishing household items rather than panic buying.

However, Mr Kwong said he and his partner were both wearing a face mask “just for coronavirus, to protect ourselves”.

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