Health and production both vital concerns of the people
China Daily

A worker makes tofu at the workshop of the Beidahuang bean products processing company in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, Feb 11, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

That all departments related to the economy, industry, trade and employment have urged factories, other than those in Hubei province, to resume production, is actually a call for the public health department and local governments to give the nod to it.

Such an open call for inter-departmental coordination is rare, and it can only be explained by each side thinking its work serves the fundamental interests of the people.

Those responsible to curb the transmission of the novel coronavirus, mainly by reducing the mobility of the population, are reluctant to see gatherings of the people and large numbers of migrant workers moving around the country, as it might render their previous efforts in vain.

While those who want to reduce the impact on the economy and safeguard people's jobs and livelihoods — not to mention the need to prevent domino effects on international supply chains in which China is an indispensable link — want people to get back to work.

To overcome the prisoner's dilemma they find themselves in entails striking a delicate balance between the needs of disease control and production. Bearing in mind that the resumption of production cannot be carried out in a particular area if it is likely to worsen the situation.

So the reopening of production plants must be implemented prudently in a phased manner to ensure sufficient anti-epidemic measures are in place to protect workers and their families, whichever industries they are in. Producing badly needed materials is not an excuse to compromise the safety of employees.

According to data of the 22 provincial-level regions responsible for most of the country's industrial output, 94.6 percent of the total capacity in grain production and processing and 57.8 percent of their total coal mining production capacity had recovered by Monday, while nearly 80 percent of the plants producing protective masks and overalls have resumed production.

Meanwhile, the operation of these regions' transport and energy industries are almost undisturbed, which explains how the daily needs of 1.4 billion people can be satisfied even though the country has appeared to be at a virtual standstill for nearly a month.

With the number of infections in the country, aside from in Hubei, having dropped eight days in a row as of Wednesday, it means as long as the balance between epidemic control and production can be maintained, the concerns of both sides can be eased as the situation continues to ameliorate.

But with 160 million people due to leave — mainly Henan, Anhui, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces, the major sources of migrant workers — for Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces over the following week, a close eye needs to be kept on the situation in these areas in particular to ensure the health production balance is maintained.