(Corrects last paragraph to show HSBC forecast is for first quarter, not full year)
SHANGHAI, March 12 (Reuters) - China’s local governments must do their utmost to ensure that people return to work as soon as possible, and any further delay could have a bigger negative impact than the coronavirus itself, the official China Daily said in an editorial on Thursday.
Emergency measures imposed throughout China to contain the outbreak have had a huge impact on the local economy, with factory activity plunging to its worst level on record in February.
China has taken action to try to ensure that low-risk regions return to work and restore production to pre-epidemic levels, but many businesses are still facing labour shortages and supply-chain disruptions, the China Daily said.
“The epidemic control measures have put an enormous strain on China’s enterprises, especially the small and medium-sized ones in the service sector,” it said.
“Any further delay in their return to normal operations will entail widespread bankruptcies and job losses, which will threaten social stability.”
It accused local authorities of making it even more difficult for businesses to return to work, adding “red tape to the inspection and approval process”.
Governments at all levels “should be helping businesses get back to their feet, which is of no less importance now than efforts to contain the virus,” it said.
Analysts have cut their growth forecasts for China this year as a result of the outbreak. HSBC said last month that it expected China’s economy to expand by 4.1% in the first quarter, down from its original estimate of 5.8%.
Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Stephen Coates