China faces conundrum on work resumption as coronavirus wreaks havoc

District governments to choose between promoting economic development and warding off deadly virus

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Xi Jinping gestures by slogan reading: "Race against time, fight the virus."  

Xi Jinping gestures by slogan reading: "Race against time, fight the virus."   (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China is undecided whether to resume work now or delay, as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to ravage the country.

Work was supposed to be back to normal starting Monday (Feb. 10), after the already extended Lunar New Year holiday, in the hope of containing the virus. The authorities issued a decree on Feb. 6 asking district governments to partially reopen local businesses to ensure market demand is met while they fight the virus.

Nevertheless, government officials are finding it tricky to maintain a balance between disease prevention and economic revival. Shanghai, for example, has seen only 30 percent of businesses resume work, with full operations not likely to resume until early March, reported CNA.

While the disease has shown no signs of abating, up to 60 million Chinese have been placed under lockdowns, from top- to lower-tier cities. “Closed-community management” to various degrees has also been implemented to reduce the risk of infection.

As things stand, the first to resume work are companies whose business concerns people’s daily lives, or in industries related to disease prevention. A lack of labor due to large-scale quarantines and insufficient resources mean that some companies have been forced to delay the restart of work.

The National Development and Reform Commission has described countering the virus and economic development as a “two-pronged” approach China has to take. Pessimistic about its economic prospects, economists from UBS investment bank have revised down China’s GDP for 2020 from 6 percent to 5.4 percent, according to CNA.