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Could China have better managed the outbreak?

The country’s shutting down a major port after one infection aggravated trade bottleneck

First it was Yantian in early June, where the port paused partial operations – which proved to be fatal for world trade. Diversions delayed shipments, along with seafarers’ crew change schedules. Now it is Ningbo in Zhoushan, industry observers wondered if the ports were overacting.

Unpleased with the suspensions
When COVID-19 struck Yantian port late May 2021, all cargoes were directed to make reservations to leave; in the name of enhancing its testing programme for imports. Dawn Tiura, CEO of Sourcing Industry Group — an association for the sourcing and procurement industry, is not pleased with how the country contained the outbreak. In a statement “opposing the lockdown”, she pointed out June’s outbreak led to Shenzhen’s key Yantian terminal slashing 70 per cent of exports. It tripled the wait time for processing shipments from 3 days to 8 or 9 days.

On 11 August 2021, Ningbo-Zhoushan port (Meishan terminal) suspended operations till further notice. It was the same case as Yantian’s; port workers found infected by COVID-19. The port handled 27.49 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of container throughput in 2019, according to the World Shipping Council. Cargo volume in 2020 rose nearly 5 per cent to reach 28.72 million TEUs. The terminal is key for servicing shipments to Europe and North America. This is the second time China suspended operations at a key terminal.

Is there a right way to deal with it?
Suspending operations from outbreaks are standard practices, and result in inflation from supply shortage. This trend is not showing signs of slowing down with the latest Lambda variant touring the globe. However, there are countries ready to co-exist with the virus and battle it as it comes. Economies hence do have a fighting chance. The outbreak number can be terrifying, but the likely key question is how many fatalities?

Data from John Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Centre revealed: United States has 36.6 million cases with 621, 226 deaths. This equates to 1.7 per cent fatality. India has 32 million cases and 431, 225 deaths – translating to a 1.3 per cent fatality. This is not to induce a dismissive attitude towards the virus’ severity, the statistics reflect all is not doom. Countries and ports can reconsider their approaches in managing the virus when it strikes.


Marine Online News Team
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