China's Covid-19 focus on keeping stable global supply chain: Premier Li

As an important node in the global supply chain, China has been keeping the world supplied with furniture and digital appliances. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday (March 11) reiterated that China is unlikely to fully reopen to the world any time soon as it continues pursuit of a "dynamic zero" Covid-19 strategy to ensure the global supply chain remains uninterrupted.

The world's second-biggest economy has largely remained shut to international travellers except in special cases, and those allowed to enter the country face between 14 and 28 days of centralised quarantine, reducing business travellers to a trickle.

But as an important node in the global supply chain, this has meant that Chinese factories have been able to resume operations ahead of most, keeping the world supplied with furniture and digital appliances as they coped with the pandemic.

"We will continue to make our response more scientific and targeted, based on new developments and features on the virus, prioritising life, health and safety, and to protect the industrial supply chain," Mr Li said in response to a question on whether China has a road map from transitioning towards treating the virus as endemic.

Sidestepping the issue of a firm timeline, Mr Li pointed to existing special green lanes and channels that allow those working on special or essential projects visas to enter the country.

"We will continue to gain experience and be adaptive (in our response) to keep up the flow of goods and personnel," he said.

Mr Li was speaking at his annual press conference at the end of China's annual parliamentary session.

China has been attempting to strike a balance between keeping out Covid-19 through muscular measures that include aggressively testing and tracing, and also enforcing targeted lockdowns on areas where clusters form.

But this has taken a toll on economic recovery, with Mr Li admitting in this year's Government Work Report that domestic consumption is still sluggish.

The hardest hit have been small and medium-sized businesses in the services sector, as well as in tourism.

Health authorities on Friday reported 555 new cases, of which nearly 397 were local transmissions. There were also 814 asymptomatic cases, which China keeps on a separate tally. 

While the number appears low as compared with most other countries, the sheer spread of the clusters is stress-testing China’s Covid-19 response.

Meanwhile, Mr Li added that the central government is "deeply concerned" about the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong.

The territory is facing its worst outbreak yet, bringing the city to a virtual standstill.

While the mainland has sent experts and resources to reinforce the city's Covid-19 response, cases and deaths continue to rise, with some estimates showing that the city has the world's highest death rate.

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