Province at China virus’ centre lets some companies reopen

BEIJING (AP) – The province at the centre of China’s virus outbreak is allowing factories and some other businesses to reopen in a show of confidence that Beijing is gaining control over the disease that devastated its economy.

The country’s communist leaders are moving to revive business after the most sweeping anti-disease controls ever imposed shut down manufacturing, travel and other industries in late January, sending shock waves through the global economy.

On Tuesday, President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus emerged in December 2019, signalling China’s crisis might be passing even as the United States (US) and European governments tighten anti-disease controls.

Manufacturers, food processors and other businesses in Wuhan that are essential to the national economy or providing daily necessities can resume operation, the provincial government announced yesterday.

The changes are meant to “accelerate establishment of economic and social operation order, compatible with the epidemic prevention,” said a government statement. It said companies that reopen are required to make “epidemic control” plans, inspect employees for signs of disease and keep workplaces disinfected.

People wait in a queue to get temperature check before entering a bank in Beijing. PHOTO: AP

Controls have been eased in other areas of China that are considered at low disease risk, but travel and other curbs still are in place. Automakers and other industries aren’t expected to return to normal production until at least mid-April due to disruption to supplies of components.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed confidence the impact on China’s economy is “temporary and limited” and rejected suggestions companies should move operations out of the country or find foreign suppliers of components and raw materials.

The impact of the epidemic on the Chinese economy is temporary and limited. The long-term sound fundamentals and “factors and conditions that support the high-quality development of the Chinese economy have not changed,” said the spokesman, Geng Shuang.

His comments suggest official unease over suggestions that industries may want to further diversify their manufacturing to minimise risks.

“With the recent progress China has made in domestic epidemic prevention and control, key industries including foreign-funded enterprises and leading enterprises have resumed work,” Geng said.

“It is neither realistic nor wise to artificially cut off the global supply chain, nor even tout ‘transfer’ and ‘decoupling’ of the supply chain.”

Most access to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people is the manufacturing hub of central China, was suspended on January 23 in a dramatic effort to contain the outbreak. Residents were ordered to stay in their homes.