China vows to beef up supply of daily necessities amid coronavirus outbreak
China will strengthen measures to ensure the supply of daily necessities in central China's Hubei Province, the epicenter of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, said an official with China's economic planning agency on Monday.
Various measures have been implemented to ensure the supply of basic necessities and prices have fallen, said Lian Weiliang, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), at a press conference in Beijing.
Strict measures, like banning travel in and out of the city of Wuhan, have been imposed since January 23, in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Some daily necessities have seen price spikes as the city's logistics suffered disruptions.
Lian said various measures have been implemented to ensure the supply of basic necessities, and prices have fallen by now.
He recognized that problems have emerged in the coordination of transportation, particularly regarding the supply of leafy vegetables and the replenishment of products. However, Liang said that the problems regarding the supply chain and employees returning to work at companies manufacturing daily necessities are being dealt with.
"The supply level of daily necessities is reflected in the prices," Liang said.
According to monitoring data on February 2, the average retail prices of pork, beef, lamb and eggs in 36 large and medium-sized cities across the country were 0.3 percent, 0.6 percent, 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent lower than previous highs, respectively. The average price of 15 kinds of vegetables fell by 6.2 percent.
In Hubei Province, taking Wuhan as an example, when traffic control measures were implemented, the prices of some daily necessities increased significantly, but now they have fallen, Liang said.
The price of pork sold in supermarkets and bazaars has fallen by 0.7 percent. The average price of 15 kinds of vegetables fell by 3.8 percent, and the prices of beef, mutton, chicken and eggs were flat.
To further tackle the challenges of goods supply, the NDRC has made a series of plans: To increase supply, to promote orderly resumption of work and production, to enhance supervision and distribution of goods, and to increase the ability to reserve goods, according to Liang.
The government will coordinate with vegetable production areas and enterprises that supply staple foods, meat products, oil and salt, and strengthen their connection with Hubei Province to ensure supply.
Meanwhile, the NDRC will continue working on promoting prevention and control of the epidemic, energy supply, transportation and logistics, urban operations, medical supplies, daily necessities, and the resumption of work of enterprises involved in the national economy and people's livelihood.
Shortages of masks and test kits to be resolved soon
The shortage of mask supply has been mitigated but it still needs more time to fully solve the problem as manufactures are returning to work, said Tian Yulong, chief engineer at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
As of February 2, the MIIT has coordinated with mask producers to ship 145,500 pieces of medical protective clothing and 135,600 N95 masks to Hubei. They have said that 131,200 and 130,000 have arrived, respectively.
"China's overall production capacity of masks is more than 20 million pieces per day, the largest production capacity in the world. The production capacity of N95 masks and medical surgical masks still needs some time to recover," Tian added.
Regarding the supply of nucleic acid reagent test kits for the novel coronavirus, Tian said the production capacity is recovering.
By February 1, the daily output of test kits had reached 773,000, equivalent to 40 times that of suspected patients.
Current production ability, of 60 to 70 percent, is still improving from the Spring Festival break, but it has basically met the requirements, Tian said.
E-commerce and logistics during the outbreak
Vice Minister of Transport Liu Xiaoming said that enterprises such as China Post, SF Express, and JD.com helped in the transportation of essential items to the virus affected areas throughout the Spring Festival period.
Thirteen other large express delivery companies followed suit and opened green channels for relief supplies. As of February 2, China Post Group organized the 32,000 postal cars for delivery and five special postal flights. They carrying epidemic prevention goods included 49,000 cases of masks and medicines, which greatly eased the transportation pressure, Liu said.
E-commerce has been helpful for people to access daily necessities and medical protective goods, when staying at home to reduce the risks of being infected.
As to ensure the safety during distribution, many e-commerce companies have launched a new model of "non-contact delivery" service. Customers and distributors agree to put parcels at a certain location, so that the delivery is contactless to reduce the risk of infection, said Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Bingnan.
He added that this model is being promoted throughout China.