Japan’s Shanghai consul airs concerns over virus curbs

People wait in line to buy bread at a bakery and pastry shop, as the city eases the lockdown in some areas, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai on Saturday.

SHANGHAI (Reuters) — Japan’s top representative in Shanghai urged China’s most populous city to address concerns of Japanese businesses over losses and other disruptions caused by lockdowns aimed at containing a COVID-19 surge.

Consul General Shuichi Akamatsu’s letter, posted on the consulate’s website on Saturday, comes as most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents remain under strict lockdowns that have hobbled economic activity in the financial centre. The city reported a record 3,590 symptomatic cases on Saturday.

The U.S. State Department on Monday ordered non-emergency U.S. government workers to leave the consulate due to surging virus numbers and China’s measures to control its spread.

The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters on Saturday. China’s foreign ministry has termed State Department concerns over coronavirus control measures in Shanghai “groundless accusations”.

Akamatsu acknowledged the city’s efforts at curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the letter to the vice mayor, dated Friday.

“However, with the extension of virus control measures, the situation of production and operations not being able to function normally has already lasted for more than a month,” he said. “The impact on business activities is clearly becoming more severe by the day.”

Akamatsu cited a survey published on Friday by a Japanese chamber representing more than 2,300 businesses, which indicated members’ concerns over virus curbs, including interrupted supply chains, difficulty in securing food supplies and an inability to make payments including employee salaries due to bank closures.

“There is no room for optimism about the current reality,” he said, adding that a lack of information about when lockdowns will end has made it impossible for companies to conduct business.

“Apart from the losses and impact on employees of work and production halts that have continued for more than a month, the future uncertainty has also become a major factor affecting companies,” he said.