Alarmed by an increase in new cases of the Covid-19 virus late last month, China created a painful new kink in an already dysfunctional supply chain by implementing a seven-week mandatory quarantine for cargo vessels and their crews hoping to return to China.
According to sources close to the action, even cargo vessels that had refreshed their crews in ports other than China will still have to wait a mandatory fourteen days before being allowed to dock there.
In attempts to be compliant, most cargo vessels were forced to reroute their ships, which further added time delays, additional costs, and other constraints to an already severely challenged supply chain.
This latest development prompted Guy Platten, an executive with the International Chamber of Shipping, a group populated by ship operators and owners, to observe, “Any restrictions to ship operations have an accumulative impact on the supply chain and causes real disruptions.”
In smaller countries, while disruptive, a move such as this would likely be seen as a tempest in a teapot. But with a footprint as large as China has, and as the world’s largest exporter, this could be an entirely new point of pain.
As it makes it clear it will administer a strict Covid Zero policy, observers say the country is enforcing the policy with measures some have called borderline-brutal.
Terence Zhao, managing director of Singhai Marine Services, has confirmed that Chinese workers on cargo vessels are currently required to quarantine for 21 days before reentering the country. But before they do, they must also spend an additional 14 days at their port of arrival, followed by an additional two-week quarantine before returning to their homes and families.
Earlier, thousands of factory workers were virtually held in lockdown at the factories day and night. Stories of government roadblocks, schools being shut down, flights and train services canceled, and other equally stringent methods abound.
Recently, Mongolia locked nearly 10,000 tourists in hotels for two weeks in hopes of quelling a new outbreak of the virus. That was followed by a handful of drug stores in Beijing losing their business credentials taken away for selling medicine to customers without entering their contact information in a government-mandated virus-tracking database.
Perhaps the biggest roundup of citizens occurred a few weeks ago when local authorities rounded up more than 34,000 people visiting Shanghai Disneyland and ordered them to undergo mandatory testing for the Covid virus.
This unyielding and unilateral enforcement of China’s Covid Zero policy both in-country and at its ports may very well help reduce the spread of the virus in China but will do little to put the global supply chain on the road to recovery anytime soon.
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