For roughly two months, the world has seen disconcerting images coming from Shanghai, courtesy of another Covid-19 lockdown. Millions of individuals have endured prolonged isolation while volunteers in HAZMAT suits have combed the empty streets of a once-bustling metropolis. Opponents of China’s “Covid Zero” policy decried the draconian measures taken to enforce what seems like an unrealistic goal. But backers countered with a study by researchers at Shanghai’s Fudan University, warning of a “tsunami” of coronavirus infections resulting in 1.6 million deaths if the government changed course. Now, as reported Covid cases subside, the Chinese government is not exactly declaring victory, but they are cautiously optimistic. In Shanghai, which last week opened part of the city’s mass transit network for limited service, businesses got the go-ahead to reopen without explicit permission on June 1.
How soon China’s largest city will get back to normal is anyone’s guess, but we at Genimex want our clients to know that Genimex employees have been on the job throughout the lockdown and are working more diligently than ever to help our clients meet their goals. Our Shanghai office has been closed since even our employees who could leave their compounds couldn’t manage the commute without available transit. But we equipped our employees with laptops to work remotely. We also sent our employees’ care packages to help them with shortages and boost their morale.
Our Asia CEO Jonathan Chitayat has been working from home, overseeing the QC, Design & Engineering, and Account Management teams. Our satellite offices in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and Taipei, Taiwan did not close, so their workers have been reporting on site.
In China, it has been a challenge to send samples to suppliers, but we have made headway. Our Quality Control team has been amazingly resilient. Felix, our Head of Quality has worked tirelessly from home, directing his team out in the field. The QC team has made its rounds, conducting quality audits and inspections. This is despite disruptions to inland transportation that make it difficult to go from one province to another. But, with QC in the field, we have been able to check approval samples and prototypes, which has enabled processes to move forward. Receiving samples is another story; the lack of couriers has prevented packages from getting through to us for more than 50 days.
Our Design & Engineering team has been unaffected. They’ve continued to work on new design and development projects. Our Account and Merchandising team has worked diligently from home, remaining in close contact with our clients on a day-to-day basis.
In addition to the inconvenience of the lockdowns, 10 percent of our Shanghai office staff have had Covid, and have either been sent to government quarantine or self-quarantined at home. Despite the disruption to their lives, some of our employees have been volunteering to deliver food to those in need.
Factory closures have been an issue, not just in the Shanghai province, but throughout China. Fortunately, in Shanghai, only about 25 to 30 percent of factories were affected, and most of ours have remained open. To stop the spread, some factories had their workers live onsite. This allowed many factories to operate continuously. The downside to this strategy is that any level of infection can turn the factory immediately into a quarantine site.
On a positive note, Genimex shipments have been getting out. Our shipments in April 2022 were 66 percent higher than in April 2021. Shipments are up 34 percent since the start of this year, largely because of an increase in orders in the final quarter of 2021. This is especially good news since the port in Shanghai is heavily congested and backed up now.
Finally, it is worth noting that the Covid spread has been shown to mimic the flu, so as summer approaches, we expect some relief and a return to normality. The reopening of Shanghai will be a great step forward for China and the world economy, as this industrial hub starts to hum again.