Spate of Lunar New Year bookings cheers Australia restaurant amid virus fight

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Auspicious shades of red are everywhere in Sydney’s Chinatown, where Eric Wong, the proprietor of a seafood restaurant, pulls an orange lobster from a large tank of water and transfers it to another nearby.

“Last night we were fully booked and today we have to call for more seafood,” said Wong, explaining that the Lunar New Year had got off to a good start, with diners flowing in despite the nation’s battle against the coronavirus.

“Now you can see all our seafood tanks, some of them are empty already,” Wong added. “A very good start of the Chinese New Year.”

Sydney unveiled on Friday two new Ox lanterns, signifying the name of the year in the Chinese zodiac, at the entrance of its Chinatown precinct.

Designed by artist Chrissy Lau, the 2.4-metre (8.2-ft) -tall lanterns take inspiration from the Japanese “maneki-neko” beckoning cat. They join 11 zodiac animal lanterns placed around the harbour city during the Lunar New Year.

Sydney’s festivities, which drew nearly 1.5 million visitors in 2019, are among the world’s largest, although virus curbs and closed borders have reduced numbers.

Wong, who runs the city’s Golden Century seafood restaurant, is looking past the disease, however.

“We look forward to this pandemic ending in the new year, borders opening again, and more tourists coming from overseas,” he said.

In the absence of tourists, Sydney authorities are encouraging citizens to visit Chinatown and help boost businesses recovering from the pandemic.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: here)

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