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CHINA NEWS
10 March 2020

FOREIGN CONSUMER BRANDS RACE TO RESUME OPERATIONS

Foreign consumer brands are racing to resume operations in China after closures related to novel coronavirus pneumonia, as experts expect retail and entertainment to enjoy a robust rebound to make up for pent-up demand.

Shanghai Disney Resort announced on Monday it would reopen some shopping, dining and recreational establishments around the facility, while Disneyland park will remain closed.

A company statement said the partial resumption marked "the first step of a phased reopening" since the resort temporarily shut down on Jan 25 to curtail the spread of the contagious disease, officially known as COVID-19.

Each reopened location will operate with limited capacity and reduced hours of operation. The company requires guests entering Shanghai Disney Resort to undergo temperature screening upon arrival and present their health QR code to use dining venues. The codes, obtained by downloading an app, are based on records of users' movements. Visitors also must wear a mask.

After a string of temporary closings since late January, Starbucks Coffee Co has reopened 90 percent of its stores in China. Its China headquarters and Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai, Farmer Support Center in Yunnan province and regional support centers have resumed operations.

The company is expected to open about 95 percent of its China stores by the end of the second quarter, according to a note from Kevin Johnson, president and CEO, to shareholders on Thursday.

Fast food chain McDonald's has also reopened 90 percent of its more than 3,300 restaurants in the country, following its rollout of group delivery services to enterprises that have resumed work since Feb 10.

The trends validate a survey by consultancy Kantar in February that out-of-home dining and entertainment are among sectors that would bounce back the fastest after being hammered by the epidemic.

"To multinational brands, the Chinese market, given its scale and growth momentum, plays a crucial role in their overall performance," said Jason Yu, general manager of Kantar Worldpanel China. He forecast offline shopping would gradually pick up, with a particular rebound in milk tea beverages and catering services that were popular among social media users.

Others are joining the fray, with Apple Inc reopening over 90 percent of its retail stores in the country as it aimed to rebound from a sales hit tied to COVID-19.

CHINA'S CONSUMER PRICE INDEX UP 5.2% IN FEB

China's consumer price index, a main gauge of inflation, rose 5.2 percent year-on-year in February, edging down from 5.4 percent in the previous month, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday.

Zhao Maohong, an NBS official, said that the novel coronavirus outbreak has had a complicated impact on prices but the country has been able to maintain generally stable prices as the government has been actively facilitating production resumption and ensuring supplies to stabilize prices.

The food price was the main contributor to CPI growth, rising 21.9 percent year-on-year in February. The surge of food prices was mainly due to the supply disruption and increase of labor cost for distribution as a result of the epidemic, according to the NBS.

The core CPI, which excludes food and energy prices, rose 1 percent year-on-year, edging down from 1.5 percent in the previous month.

Meanwhile, China's producer price index declined 0.4 percent year-on-year in February, affected by the sharp drop of prices of crude oil and natural gas in the international markets.

 

SHANGHAI AIRPORTS STRENGTHEN MEASURES

Shanghai authorities have stepped up preventive measures at the city's two airports since Friday to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus from overseas.

The new measures require that all travelers from countries severely affected by the virus arriving at the city's airports be subject to epidemiological investigation.

They will then be escorted home or to quarantine hotels by chartered buses to minimize their contact with others, according to the Shanghai government.

"Medical workers will conduct the epidemiological investigations, including their potential contact history with confirmed cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia, for travelers from South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan once they enter the terminal building before taking their temperatures and checking their health declaration forms," said Jiang Yuan, deputy head of Shanghai Customs.

Since late January, all travelers arriving at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport or Shanghai Pudong International Airport have been required to fill out a health declaration form, which includes their living and traveling experience over the past 14 days and their health conditions.

Anyone running a fever or showing symptoms of respiratory disease will be directed to medical screening at the terminal building.

The Shanghai Municipal Health Commission said on Sunday that 12 of the 31 suspected cases of the novel coronavirus pneumonia in the city were from overseas.

Since Friday, each of the 16 districts in the municipality has sent a work team to be stationed at the airports around the clock to pick up travelers from the countries severely affected by the contagion. Those who do not have a residence in Shanghai will be transported to designated hotels for quarantine lasting 14 days.

Taxis are not allowed to provide service for such travelers. Private cars from family or companies are allowed, but information about the vehicle and driver must be collected by the government.

A man surnamed Li returned to his home in Shanghai's Minhang district on Sunday after a trip to Japan.

Immediately upon arriving home, he was visited by a worker from the residential committee, a community police officer and a doctor from the local center for disease control and prevention, reminding him of the mandatory 14-day isolation period he would have to endure at home.

He was required to report his temperature twice a day, and it was suggested that he buy groceries online. His food and parcels will be delivered to him by a designated worker, according to the district civil affairs bureau.

"It's prime time for Shanghai to prevent the spread of the virus outbreak from overseas," Li said. "I support the Chinese government's rapid response."

Also, over the weekend, Shanghai, a traffic hub for the neighboring regions, started transporting travelers who arrived at Shanghai airports and were bound for neighboring Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces by chartered buses.

Customs also said that people who conceal their travel history when filling out health declaration forms or do not cooperate with health and quarantine measures will be brought to justice. If their behavior results in the spread of the contagion, they will face criminal responsibility.

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