July 1, 2022

Chinese port workers jailed in Dalian for Covid violations

Chinese court sentenced three port workers to up to 57 months in prison for breaking Covid-19 containment rules, as authorities step up efforts to eradicate the virus and companies warn of growing risks of the supply chain.

Three workers at a company that handles imported goods in the northeastern port city of Dalian were sentenced to between 39 and 57 months for violating Covid containment measures in 2020, including not wearing masks and protective clothing when handling goods.

The company was also fined 800,000 Rmb ($ 126,000) after the violations led to an epidemic in the city, according to court documents.

The long prison terms were handed down as Chinese authorities tightened restrictions in areas affected by Omicron outbreaks in pursuit of a zero Covid strategy.

Authorities in Tianjin, a 14m city about 120 km east of Beijing, on Wednesday ordered another round of mandatory tests for all residents after 36 new symptomatic cases were discovered, the state news agency said. Xinhua.

Authorities on Tuesday placed Anyang, a town of 5m people, under lockdown after found two cases of the Omicron variant to spread from Tianjin.

Xi’an, a 13m central Chinese city, has been under strict lockdown measures since last month, leading some residents to complain of food shortages.

The closures have threatened to disrupt global supply chains, with companies warning of potential risks to manufacturing.

Toyota, the Japanese automaker, said it had halted production at a factory in Tianjin until the safety of local communities and business partners was confirmed.

Samsung Electronics and Micron Technology, have previously warned that the Covid restrictions could disrupt their chip-making operations in Xi’an.

The spread of Omicron in Asia could prove to be more damaging to supply chains than previous waves of the pandemic, warned Frederic Neumann, HSBC co-head of Economics Asia Research.

“Given the extraordinarily high transmissibility of this variant, the risks of major epidemics in the region are increasing. Even Hong Kong and mainland China, protected by some of the world’s strictest external quarantine measures, have seen Omicron pass through their defenses, ”he said.

The harsh sentences in Dalian reflect China’s claim that Covid could be spread through imported frozen products and packaging. The claims are politically sensitive and form the basis of the government’s argument that the virus may not have originated in the country.

China’s National Health Commission on Wednesday reported 166 new local symptomatic cases and four local asymptomatic cases, classified separately.

Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding in Beijing, Eri Sugiura in Tokyo and Edward White in Auckland