Photos: China’s City Streets Empty as Workers Avoid Coronavirus

TOPSHOT - A general view of Shenzhen is seen from a bus travelling on the Shenzhen Bay bridge in Hong Kong on February 8, 2020. - Hong Kong began enforcing a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone arriving from mainland China, a dramatic escalation of its bid to stop the deadly …
PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

“The outbreak will be short-lived, and it will not affect China’s competitiveness,” the state-run Global Times newspaper proclaimed Tuesday.

While China insists its economic output remains strong, photos from its major economic hubs show millions-strong cities completely deserted, bringing the Chinese economy to a screeching halt.

At press time, China has documented 72,439 cases of the newly discovered coronavirus originating in Wuhan, a central Chinese city of 11 million people. Of those identified as confirmed patients, 1,870 have died within China, the overwhelming majority. While most of those cases have been confirmed in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, doctors have confirmed growing numbers of cases in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, some of the most important urban centers to China’s economy.

The Wuhan coronavirus reportedly began spreading in Wuhan in mid-December; the Chinese Communist Party informed the public of the outbreak on January 20. Since then, the virus has spread to every province in the country and to places outside of communist rule like Hong Kong and Macau. To help contain the outbreak, Chinese officials have implemented strict lockdowns forcing many people to work from home. Those who cannot do so, like factory workers who need access to materials and machinery, have simply not been able to work.

In central Wuhan, the government has banned residents from leaving their homes. Former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong – a loyalist to dictator Xi Jinping recently appointed head of the Communist Party in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located – implemented a ban from being out in public throughout Wuhan and several other cities in the province. According to the South China Morning Post, Ying imposed what he called the “strictest 24-hour lock-down management,” allowing individuals to leave their homes only in cases of emergency and to buy food and necessary supplies every three days. Any exit from a building requires government approval. Needless to say, commuting to work is not on the list of approved reasons to leave the house.

This photo taken on February 17, 2020 shows a man wearing a protective face mask riding a bicycle in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. - The toll from China's coronavirus epidemic jumped to 1,868 on February 18 after 98 more people died, according to the National Health Commission. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

This photo taken on February 17, 2020, shows a man wearing a protective face mask riding a bicycle in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The Morning Post notes that, in total, over 80 cities nationwide have imposed lockdowns.

For Shanghai, Ying’s former city and one of the most important economic centers in the country, this has meant a near-total shutdown of business activity. A poll found this week that nearly 80 percent of companies active in the greater Shanghai area do not have the necessary number of employees present at work to run their companies. In the next month, 41 percent of companies surveyed said a lack of staff was their biggest concern. Shanghai has documented 333 cases of coronavirus and one death.

Subway passengers wear protective facemasks in Shanghai on February 13, 2020. - The number of deaths and new cases from China's COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak spiked dramatically on February 13 after authorities changed the way they count infections in a move that will likely fuel speculation that the severity of the outbreak has been under-reported. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Subway passengers wear protective facemasks in Shanghai on February 13, 2020. (NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman wearing a protective facemask offers prayers outside the closed Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai on February 14, 2020. - The death toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic neared 1,400 on February 14, as the United States complained of a "lack of transparency" from Beijing over its handling of a crisis that has fuelled global panic. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman wearing a protective facemask offers prayers outside the closed Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai on February 14, 2020. (NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Shenzhen, the city bordering Hong Kong, has also seen a steep decline in economic activity. Shenzhen’s Guangdong province, largely considered the factory center of the country, has documented 1,328 cases of the virus and four deaths, many more cases than the more centrally located Beijing and Shanghai, though the same number of deaths as the national capital. Shenzhen has been deeply impacted by rural commuter workers choosing not to return to jobs where they may be exposed to the virus. Beijing estimates that as many as two-thirds of those workers are not back in factories nationwide, significantly hindering manufacturing.

A woman walks to the departure hall of Shenzhen Bay Port Hong Kong Port Area on February 8, 2020. - Hong Kong began enforcing a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone arriving from mainland China, a dramatic escalation of its bid to stop the deadly new coronavirus from spreading. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman walks to the departure hall of Shenzhen Bay Port Hong Kong Port Area on February 8, 2020. (PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

In Beijing, the most politically powerful city in the country, largely empty streets suggest a significant disruption in business as usual.

A nearly empty street is seen in Beijing on February 15, 2020. - The death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak jumped past 1,500 in China as France reported the first fatality outside Asia, fuelling global concerns about the epidemic (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

A nearly empty street is seen in Beijing on February 15, 2020. (NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP via Getty Images)

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 15: A security guard walks past a propaganda banner saying "Do Not Leave Home Often During Holidays, Wear a Mask When Going Out, Keep a Distance and Do Not Shake Hands When Meeting" on February 15, 2020 in Temple of Heaven Park, Beijing, China. (Photo by Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)

A security guard walks past a propaganda banner saying “Do Not Leave Home Often During Holidays, Wear a Mask When Going Out, Keep a Distance and Do Not Shake Hands When Meeting” on February 15, 2020, in Temple of Heaven Park, Beijing, China. (Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)

The Communist Party is so concerned about an outbreak in the capital that it is considering the extraordinary move of postponing the “two sessions” – the annual full session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s rubber-stamp legislature, and of the People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a celebrity advisory committee – until after the viral outbreak is under control. The “two sessions” typically bring thousands of high-level politicians together from around the country, potentially exposing them all to the outbreak. While the nominal government reason for considering postponement is to ensure these politicians are in their home provinces working on the outbreak, anonymously some in the government have expressed concern that such a large assembly would spread the illness to some of the Party’s most important cadres.

Viral infections among government employees are already a concern, as China has attempted to keep government offices open to show that the outbreak is under control. The Global Times reported on Tuesday that 69 people in one Beijing district office have been quarantined after a public worker tested positive for the virus there. The infected employee had traveled to Hubei province for the Lunar New Year holiday.

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 18: Chinese children wear protective masks as they briefly play at a shopping mall on February 18, 2020 in Beijing, China. As a virus outbreak, The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to more than 70,000 in mainland China, and as of today, 1,870 patients have died. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Chinese children wear protective masks as they briefly play at a shopping mall on February 18, 2020, in Beijing, China. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Chinese men wear protective masks as they run to the escalator in a nearly empty area outside Beijing West Railway Station on February 16, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of the deadly new coronavirus COVID-19 rose to more than 57000 in mainland China Sunday, in what the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global public health emergency. China continued to lock down the city of Wuhan in an effort to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts have confirmed can be passed from human to human. In an unprecedented move, Chinese authorities have maintained and in some cases tightened the travel restrictions on the city which is the epicentre of the virus and also in municipalities in other parts of the country affecting tens of millions of people. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to over 1650 on Sunday, mostly in Hubei province, and cases have been reported in other countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and several others. The World Health Organization has warned all governments to be on alert and screening has been stepped up at airports around the world. Some countries, including the United States, have put restrictions on Chinese travellers entering and advised their citizens against travel to China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Chinese men wear protective masks as they run to the escalator in a nearly empty area outside Beijing West Railway Station on February 16, 2020, in Beijing, China. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: A Chinese guard stands in a nearly empty shopping area on February 16, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of the deadly new coronavirus COVID-19 rose to more than 57000 in mainland China Sunday, in what the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global public health emergency. China continued to lock down the city of Wuhan in an effort to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts have confirmed can be passed from human to human. In an unprecedented move, Chinese authorities have maintained and in some cases tightened the travel restrictions on the city which is the epicentre of the virus and also in municipalities in other parts of the country affecting tens of millions of people. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to over 1650 on Sunday, mostly in Hubei province, and cases have been reported in other countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and several others. The World Health Organization has warned all governments to be on alert and screening has been stepped up at airports around the world. Some countries, including the United States, have put restrictions on Chinese travellers entering and advised their citizens against travel to China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

A Chinese guard stands in a nearly empty shopping area on February 16, 2020, in Beijing, China. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: A Chinese man wears a protective mask as he stands outside a main entrance at Beijing West Railway Station as it is nearly empty on February 16, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of the deadly new coronavirus COVID-19 rose to more than 57000 in mainland China Sunday, in what the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global public health emergency. China continued to lock down the city of Wuhan in an effort to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts have confirmed can be passed from human to human. In an unprecedented move, Chinese authorities have maintained and in some cases tightened the travel restrictions on the city which is the epicentre of the virus and also in municipalities in other parts of the country affecting tens of millions of people. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to over 1650 on Sunday, mostly in Hubei province, and cases have been reported in other countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and several others. The World Health Organization has warned all governments to be on alert and screening has been stepped up at airports around the world. Some countries, including the United States, have put restrictions on Chinese travellers entering and advised their citizens against travel to China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

A Chinese man wears a protective mask as he stands outside a main entrance at Beijing West Railway Station as it is nearly empty on February 16, 2020, in Beijing, China. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The Global Times has nonetheless proclaimed that the demise of the Chinese economy is overestimated.

“The losses are huge, of course, and the specific numbers are yet to be counted, but the absolute numbers are certainly staggering,” the Times admitted on Tuesday in an article called “It Is Naive to Expect Chinese Economy to Collapse.”

Yet China’s sheer size means just as much maneuvering capability, and it is one of the most important indicators of strategic economic resilience. Some of the losses in services can be made up for, and a lot of them are lost, but they won’t be an internal wound to the Chinese economy. Over time, subsequent economic developments will allow the wounds to heal.

While China’s economy has suffered, there has been no disruption this time around.

The sectors of the economy that support the daily needs of the Chinese are revving up. With the exception of emergency supplies such as face  masks, which cannot be expanded to the level of demand, the supply of other daily necessities has not been reduced.

The newspaper also applauded the economy’s “slow yet steady start” this week on Monday.

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