EU firms complain about Covid restrictions and uncertainty in China

Beijing, May 16 (dpa/GNA) - European companies operating in China, are suffering badly from the restrictions imposed by China's strict zero-Covid policy, the chairman of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, Joerg Wuttke, said on Monday.

"The uncertainty makes everything very difficult," he said. "What will happen next? When will the next lockdown be implemented?"

Chamber representatives reported that freight transport between cities is difficult, and businesses have had to suspend or reduce production, all of which adds up to severe supply chain disruption.

Many of China's metropolitan areas are affected by restrictions due to Covid outbreaks, some of which are minor in scale. Shanghai, the country's economic and financial centre, has been under a lockdown involving strict curfews for millions of people for six weeks.

Wuttke said that the authorities had been forced to impose draconian measures because China was still "a long way from achieving herd immunity."

"Instead of accelerating the vaccination of the elderly, they have actually slowed down," he said.

More than 100 million people in China over the age of 60 have not yet been fully vaccinated.

The restrictions imposed as part of the zero-Covid strategy, are slowing down China's second-largest economy much more than expected, financial data released on Monday showed.

Industrial production surprisingly fell 2.9% in April compared with the same month last year, according to China's statistics bureau. Retail sales also slumped more sharply than predicted by around 11.1%.

Despite the poor economic data, Fu Linghui, a spokesman for the statistics bureau, took an optimistic tone, saying that "the Covid outbreak in April had a big impact on the economy, but the consequences will be short-term."

The good long-term fundamentals of the Chinese economy remain unchanged, he said.

It is becoming increasingly uncertain whether the Chinese government's 2022 economic growth target of 5.5% can still be achieved. New economic setbacks resulting from Russia's war in Ukraine have complicated China's economic outlook.