The world’s largest trading hub has been a dealt a major blow as international companies shut down their offices and shops in China following the corona virus crisis.
The suspension of their services is part of a global effort to stop the spread of what could become a pandemic, with the majority of products in China placed under quarantine.
UK-based international clothing brand Burberry confirmed that it had closed 24 of its 64 stores in mainland China, which it said was having a severe impact on retail sales in the country.
“It’s having a negative effect on luxury demand,” said Marco Gobbetti, Burberry chief executive.
“While we cannot currently predict how long this situation will last, we remain confident in our strategy. In the meantime, we are taking mitigating actions and every precaution to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees.”
French container shipping giant CMA-CGM added that it planned to re-open its offices on 17 February, six weeks after the first reported case was reported. The shipping company joined a host of other carriers to temporarily discontinue their services following the outbreak.
The suspension of sea freight trading has had a disastrous impact on global trading volumes as about 80% of all world goods are transported by ship, while China also plays host to seven of the busiest ports in the world – six on its own coast and one in Hong Kong.
Many countries have imposed stringent guidelines and inspections before products from China are allowed to enter the country. This has caused many delays and increased congestion for ships at ports across the world, with the Australian government placing a 14-day quarantine on ships wanting to dock in their waters, according to an S&P Global report from Tuesday.
“Delays in loading and delivery of cargoes in the tanker, dry bulk and container shipping segments are being reported due to ships being forced to sit idle amid a lack of crew availability,” the report said.
“All ships that have left China on or after this date will have to wait out the 14-day quarantine period. If a sickness is reported on board the ship, the Australian authorities will investigate and likely extend the quarantine for 14 more days.”
Chinese health authorities announced on Thursday that the number of deaths from the outbreak had risen to 636, with more than 30 000 confirmed cases reported. - Bjorn Vorster