China gets back to work, but caution rules in edgy Beijing

China gets back to work, but caution rules in edgy Beijing

Agency News

As China's getting back to work, the traffic jams have reappeared on Beijing's streets.

A data released last week by the internet company Baidu showing anonymous movements of some users suggests that more than 90 percent of restaurants and 85 percent of malls in Beijing have now reopened. Data from TAC Index, a Hong Kong company that tracks the cargo industry, shows activity increasing in China in the first week of March, as activity dropped sharply in Europe.

Big industrial companies are touting progress. Foxconn, the manufacturing powerhouse that makes Apple’s iPhones among many other products, and which relies on a vast migrant workforce, said on Tuesday that it had resumed operations enough to meet seasonal demand. At the start of March, the company’s chairman, Young Liu, told investors that the plants were operating at 50 percent capacity.

But Foxconn has introduced some extreme measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Besides frequent temperature testing, the company says it has given more than 50,000 coronavirus tests to workers and administered 40,000 chest x-rays. A spokesperson for the company says anyone with an elevated temperature is immediately taken to a hospital, and those around them are closely watched.

Since the office reopened in February, workers enter in shifts staggered to minimize potential exposure. Infrared cameras and security staff check temperatures as they arrive, and their workspaces are decontaminated three times per day. Workers must wear masks at all times and are required to complete a daily health questionnaire. No more than six people are allowed in elevators; tape on the floor shows where to stand. Face-to-face meetings are discouraged, and people eat alone in the cafeteria using a cardboard “face shield,” to minimize risk when a face mask is removed.

The rules may be a harbinger for other countries battling to tame the virus and considering how and when to restart their economies. President Trump might be promising to get Americans back to work in weeks rather than months, but China’s recovery from the pandemic suggests that extreme measures may be needed for many more months. Until a vaccine has been developed or herd immunity emerges, returning to normal won’t be an option.