BEIJING, Apr 8, 2022 (AFP) – The city of Shanghai, the world’s main container port, is under lockdown by Covid-19, a measure that affects the Chinese economy and threatens supply chains around the world.
To face the worst wave of covid-19 in China since the beginning of the pandemic, the country’s economic capital – with a GDP equivalent to that of Poland – has been in total or partial confinement for two weeks.
Despite the fact that Shanghai has not recorded any deaths and the vast majority of cases are asymptomatic, the authorities decided to confine the estimated 25 million inhabitants, despite the heavy toll this takes on the economy.
Thousands of trucks are on hold as drivers entering the city must be quarantined for two weeks to get out.
The lack of truck drivers affects activity at the port, although officials say that for now there are fewer than a dozen ships a day waiting to dock.
“But the problem is that because of the restrictions imposed on truck drivers, the port doesn’t really work,” Bettina Schön-Behanzin, vice president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, told AFP.
The commercial representative said that she heard that volumes dropped 40% in a week at the port. “That’s a lot,” she said.
– No workers, no raw materials – The effect is starting to be felt across China, where delivery delays are multiplying on internet trading platforms, especially for imported goods. Some industries are forced to find new suppliers.
This impact, however, could also be felt internationally, as the port of Shanghai represents 17% of Chinese maritime tonnage. Any disruption will slow trade in the world’s biggest goods exporter.
Entrepreneurs say that the confinements that happen from one place to another in the country seriously affect their activities.
“Not all professions can work from home,” says Jason Lee, founder of a wheelchair company called Megalicht Tech, whose factory in Shanghai is closed.
The epidemic could affect the Chinese government’s growth targets, which had expected a 5.5% expansion this year, the lowest figure in 30 years.
– Adapt to Survive – Entrepreneurs try to adapt to survive. Gao Yongkang, director of Qifeng Technology company in Quanzhou, in the east of the country, can no longer deliver orders to his regular customers, so he has switched to selling protective clothing.
Others managed to change providers.
“It’s a little more expensive and less effective,” says Shen Shengyuan, vice president of New Yifa Group, a diaper maker.
Eric Zheng, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, questions whether the zero covid strategy still works in the current context.
“This is the big question, especially when it comes to the balance with the economic cost that this entails”, he said.