March 12, 2020 / 12:52 AM / in 23 days

China's local governments must help people get back to work - China Daily

SHANGHAI (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 shut down large parts of the economy, with factory activity plunging to its worst level on record in February. While more businesses have reopened in recent weeks, analysts do not expect activity to return to normal levels till April.

Many businesses are still facing labor 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 slashed 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%.

In another editorial published on Thursday, the ruling Communist Party newspaper the People’s Daily said while the number of new virus cases in China had dwindled, conditions were still difficult and there were risks of further outbreaks.

It said the restoration of the economy needed to be “compatible” with the prevention and control of the coronavirus, and it urged officials at all levels to remain vigilant and avoid succumbing to “battle fatigue”.

(This story corrects third last paragraph to show HSBC predicted growth to slow to 4.1% in first quarter, not full year.)

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Stephen Coates and Kim Coghill

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