Chinese cautiously go to the office Mask-clad white-collar workers take precautions2020.03.20
RIDING the underground for the first time after weeks of working remotely from home, Zhuang Xue felt a sense of calm, outfitted in a blue surgical mask and protective goggles as she headed for the office.
The 29-year-old purchasing agent joined other office workers finally allowed back to their cubicles on 9 March in Beijing, where virtually no new Covid-19 cases have been reported in recent days.
Authorities extended the Lunar New Year holiday that began in late January, ordering most workers in the city to stay home to help curb the spread of the coronavirus that has infected more than 110,000 people worldwide, most of them in China.
Zhuang, her goggles fogged up in the morning chill as she left the underground station, said she had been preparing for this moment for weeks, exercising at home and trying to eat as healthily as possible to strengthen her immune system. She was carrying disinfectant wipes and a personal water bottle.
“Everyone is pretty conscientious,” Zhuang said.
It is not exactly life as usual, though. Fearing a resurgence in cases, the government is taking a gradual approach.
Beijing’s city government is requiring that the number of people in each office be limited to no more than 50 percent of usual staffing levels. Protective face masks are required, and office workers must be seated at least one metre apart. Workers are not supposed to face each other when eating.
Similar measures have been implemented to varying degrees across the country, as the number of new cases has dwindled.
China reported just 19 new cases of the virus on 10 March.
Last month, the number of new daily cases was in the thousands.
At least 59,000 people in mainland China have recovered from the disease, according to the National Health Commission, while more than 3,000 have died.
While Chinese cities experiment with slowly reviving activity, other countries are cancelling public gatherings, encouraging remote work and – in the case of Italy (意大利) – following China’s lead with a lockdown on affected regions.
Chinese factories that make the world’s smartphones, toys and other consumer goods are gradually reopening but are not expected to reach normal production until at least April.
Travel curbs are still in place in many areas, making it difficult for employees to get back to work.
That is disrupting imports of components and raw materials from China’s Asian neighbours as well as shipments from China.
On 7 March, the government reported that exports fell 17 percent and imports were off 4 percent from a year earlier in January and February.
(This article is published on the Student Standard on 20 March 2020)