China’s stringent zero-COVID policies are not able to contain the current omicron variant because of the highly infectious nature, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in a press conference on Tuesday 17 May. But the WHO also added each country can make its own decisions, even when they do not make sense according to scientific evidence, reports AP.
Just as the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing ended, China’s media started to suggest the country is planning beyond the strict zero-covid policies later in the year. International travel has been virtually dead since early 2020, and many – including the China Speakers Bureau – have been waiting for a change in this policy.
Two months ago we still hoped the event industry would recover from the Covid-19 crisis in a similar way as SARS in 2002/3. But history seldom repeats itself and also in this case it looks we have been too optimistic. While much of Europe is slowly opening up, and other parts of the world remain in crisis mode, the traditional events as we knew them might not return any time soon. Whether we will go through a second wave of the corona crisis is still an open question: major disruption is here to stay.
That is bad news for those event companies who relied on physical conferences including massive flights, hotel bookings, and entertainment for their business model. Much of our business disappeared initially, leaving our speakers often empty-handed. Now a miraculous revival of the event industry might not come fast, at the CSB we can focus on our core business: connecting established China experts to companies and organizations eager to pick their brains, now in online seminars.
Last week we saw a resumption of economic activities in China, and hoped our speakers’ business would be up to steam before the summer, including a few months for event organizers to get their act together. But recent developments show that the coronavirus crisis might only be starting in the rest of the world, as European countries and the US have started to lockdown their economic activities to stop the spread of the virus. Together with gloomy assessments of the lackluster way those countries deal with the crisis, our first analysis might have been too optimistic.
China, with the exception of Hubei province, might be getting back to normal, the rest of the world is still bracing for a further outbreak of the coronavirus. Northern Italy shows remarkable similarities with the early weeks of the crisis in Wuhan: cramped medical facilities, expanding quarantine measure to stop the spread of the virus, and much uncertainty in countries and regions that still try to control the crisis. In China numbers of new patients are dropping, so – unless you might distrust those figures – its heavy-handed approach seems to be working at this list. But global stress on international economic relations seem far from over.
With all the justified criticism on the way China dealt the with coronavirus in the early weeks, the country did make some right choices later in the crisis as containment of the health issues was more important than keeping up the economy. More surprising it is that countries with a more developed health care system like Italy seem utterly unprepared for a major outbreak of the virus. Even a very solid country like Switzerland sees the number of coronavirus patients going up fast.
Health organizations have been warning for shortages in essential drugs, now supplies from China are disrupted. But the problems are more fundamental than a concentration of drug production in China, also Indian manufacturers get into trouble, warns business analyst Shaun Rein at the BBC.
The China government is trying to push positive news in the way it handles the coronavirus crisis, but the economic fallout is only shaping up as the panic moves to other parts of the world. Airlines, shipping lines and other logistics and hospitality providers are maintaining the reduction on services, as demand is not yet picking up. Some logistic providers contemplate resuming services only in June, although they do not wish to confirm that less-favorable scenario.
Europe has become the latest victim of the coronavirus panic, and the number of patients rises, while numbers in the Americas are still low, but expected to go up too.
With all possible caveats: early signs do indicated the coronavirus is slowly retreating in China. That might reverse, as workers are slowly returning to work, and quarantine measure are partly revoked. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, notably South-Korean, Japan, Iran and Italy are fighting their own hot spots of the coronavirus and the fears of a global pandemic outbreak are all but over.
When you follow our social media feeds at Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, you might notice that our China news – not related to the coronavirus – is growing since the weekend, and that is a good sign too. But still, we do not expect the event industry to pick up before May, and much might depend not only on China and the success of its quarantine measure, but also how the virus is developing in the rest of the world.
Fighting the Covid-19 virus and saving the economy might not go very well together, says political analyst Victor Shih in Al Jazeera. While there is very little international supply chains can do at this stage, as Chinese governments make decisions, says Victor Shih, the message for the long run is: diversify.