Friday, April 3, 2020

Eating Solo, Avoiding Rush Hour: China Cautiously Returns to Work

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SHENZHEN, China/BEIJING—China is making uneven progress in its return to work after more than a month of coronavirus disruption, with many factories running at under half capacity and office workers avoiding their colleagues.

Yang Lu, who works in sales for a security company in the southern city of Shenzhen, said her office of around 300 people is back to work, but she tries to stay away from people.

“I come to the office earlier than others and leave late,” she said.

Around 80 percent of restaurants and shopping centers have reopened in major cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou, search engine Baidu said on Mar. 5, although traffic is light in restaurants and malls. Over 90 percent of businesses in the large southern province of Guangdong had resumed work as of Tuesday, state media said.

Yet the picture is mixed, depending on location and industry.

While 60 percent of logistics companies across China have returned to work, the government said on Friday, analysis from brokerage Nomura suggests that just 44 percent of businesses in sectors directly affected by the outbreak were up and running as of Mar. 1, up from 37.7 percent a week earlier.

“Reopening a factory is easy. All you need to do is get a guard and hire a few cleaning ladies and you’re all set,” said a government official in the city of Wenzhou, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.

“But resuming production is a whole different matter,” he said, noting that market demand, availability of workers, and finding adequate supply of safety equipment like masks are all challenges.

Employers also fear workplace infection.

“If someone tests positive for the virus, all of the employees have to be quarantined and you have to pay them at the same time. It is not a fair trade,” the official said.

Epoch Times Photo
People line up to register their temperature and personal details as they arrive for work at an office building in Beijing, China as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, on March 3, 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

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