A Chinese court has sentenced three dock workers to 57 months in prison for violating Covid-19 restriction rules as authorities intensified efforts to eradicate the virus and warned companies about growing supply chain risks.
Three workers at a company handling imported goods in the northeastern port city of Dalian were sentenced to between 39 and 57 months for violating Covid restrictions in 2020, including not wearing masks and protective clothing while handling cargo.
The company was also fined Rmb800 000 ($ 126 000) after the violations led to an outbreak in the city, according to court documents.
The long prison sentences were imposed because Chinese authorities tightened restrictions in areas affected by Omicron outbreaks in the pursuit of a zero covid strategy.
Authorities in Tianjin, a city of 14 m about 120 km east of Beijing, on Wednesday ordered another round of mandatory testing for all residents after 36 symptomatic cases were discovered, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
Authorities on Tuesday placed Anyang, a city of 5 million people. capable of restraint after it was found that two cases of the Omicron variant had spread from Tianjin.
Xi’an, a central Chinese city of 13 m, has been under strict lock-in measures since last month, which has led to some residents complaining food shortages.
The restrictions threatened to disrupt global supply chains, with companies warning of potential manufacturing risks.
Toyota, the Japanese carmaker, said it had halted production at a facility in Tianjin until the safety of local communities and business partners was confirmed.
Samsung Electronics and Micron Technology have previously warned that the Covid restrictions could disrupt their chip manufacturing operations in Xi’an.
Omicron’s spread across Asia could be more damaging to supply chains than previous waves of the pandemic, warned Frederic Neumann, HSBC co-head of economic research in Asia.
“Given the extraordinarily high portability of this variant, the risks of major outbreaks across the region are increasing. Even Hong Kong and mainland China, protected by some of the world’s most stringent external quarantine measures, have seen Omicron slip through their defenses,” he said. he said.
The severe penalties in Dalian reflect China’s claim that Covid may be distributed via imported frozen goods and packaging. The claims are politically sensitive and form the basis of the government’s argument that the virus may not have originated in the country.
China’s National Health Commission on Wednesday reported 166 new local symptomatic cases and four local asymptomatic cases, classified separately.
Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding in Beijing, Eri Sugiura in Tokyo and Edward White in Auckland