Chinese Businesses Prepare for COVID Infections after Easing Restrictions

    08 December 2022

    Manufacturers and businesses wanting to stay open in China are staying careful by keeping COVID-19 measures.

    The Chinese government is beginning to ease its severe COVID-19 restrictions. But businesses are waiting before they lift measures meant to limit the spread of the virus.

    The world's second largest economy is preparing for an increase in the number of infections as it eases its "zero-COVID" policy. China is slowly stopping its campaign of finding and isolating infections. The government said it wants individuals to do more testing and treatment.

    A waiter guides a customer to scan a health QR code outside a restaurant as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks continue in Shanghai, China on December 8, 2022. (REUTERS/Aly Song)
    A waiter guides a customer to scan a health QR code outside a restaurant as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks continue in Shanghai, China on December 8, 2022. (REUTERS/Aly Song)

    National health officials have urged that high-risk areas should be more clearly defined. And they added that production or business operations should continue in other places.

    A representative from a leading steel factory in eastern China spoke with Reuters under the name Dai. Dai said they were still under "closed loop management" with workers not permitted to leave the factory. A "closed loop" system operates with little human interaction.

    "It won't relax any time soon," Dai added, saying the factory wanted to hold down infections as much as possible with a system in which workers live where they work and have little contact with others.

    The comments were reported as businesses told Reuters they were considering the unclear situation. They are expecting to have to deal with long periods without workers as sick workers leave. The lack of workers could affect operations for months.

    Officials have ended the requirement of testing for many activities. But a restaurant company HaiDiLao said it would continue to require daily tests for workers in the capital, Beijing.

    Many nations ending COVID restrictions faced similar difficulties in returning to usual business activity. But Chinese companies are struggling. China's "zero-COVID" policy was unusual in the world and its slowing economy is likely to face difficulties.

    Yang Bingben heads a factory in the eastern city of Wenzhou that makes products for industrial use. Yang said many workers who have large home payments "want to earn more money to have a good Lunar New Year."

    Lunar New Year is China's biggest holiday, and it falls in January next year. Yang added that officials did not give guidance on what to do if the factory, with a workforce of more than 30, was hit by a mass infection.

    Yang is keeping medicines and has told his staff to follow new rules to stay home and receive half their pay if they get infected.

    To avoid possible problems from any infections, Yang first considered closing the factory ahead of the Lunar New Year. But, in the end, he decided not to.

    In Beijing, some state businesses and banks are grouping workers into teams to ensure work continues even with any outbreak, people told Reuters.

    Andy Chen, an employee of a state-owned company, said the move came after someone in his office was infected with the coronavirus. He added, "Staff are now divided into half and take weekly turns to work in the office."

    Foreign-owned Agilian Technology is based in the southern city of Dongguan and manufactures electronics. It will continue to require arriving workers to show their state of health. And it will create a larger plan against a big outbreak.

    "I am confident it will be a mess for about 3 months," said the company's executive vice president, Renaud Anjoran. "We will see."

    I'm Gregory Stachel.

    Siyi Liu and Josh Horwitz reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    isolate –v. to put or keep someone in a situation that is separate from others

    relax – v. to become or to cause (something) to become less tense, tight, or stiff

    staff – n. a group of people who work for an organization or business

    confident – adj. having a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something

    mess – n. a situation that is very complex, disordered or difficult to deal with