Province at China virus's center lets some companies reopen

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People wearing protective face masks walk by a quiet Silk Street Mall, a usually popular tourist spot before the new coronavirus outbreak in Beijing, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BEIJING – The province at the center of China’s virus outbreak began allowing factories and some other businesses to reopen Wednesday in a show of confidence that Beijing is gaining control over the disease that devastated its economy.

Chinese leaders are trying to revive business after the most sweeping anti-disease controls ever imposed shut down manufacturing, travel and other industries in late January, sending shock waves through the global economy.

On Tuesday, President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus emerged in December, in a sign China believes its crisis might be passing even as the United States and European governments tighten anti-disease controls.

Manufacturers, food processors and other businesses in Wuhan that are essential to the national economy or providing daily necessities can resume operation, the Hubei provincial government announced. The city of 11 million people, about 700 kilometers (450 miles) west of Shanghai, is the manufacturing hub of central China.

The changes are meant to “accelerate establishment of economic and social operation order, compatible with the epidemic prevention,” said a government statement. Companies that reopen are required to make “epidemic control” plans, inspect employees for signs of disease and keep workplaces disinfected.

The statement said controls that have kept most people in Wuhan and surrounding cities in their homes for seven weeks will be eased to allow employees to go to work but movement will be tightly controlled.

Companies in and around Wuhan that are reopening include makers of electric car batteries, pharmaceuticals, telecom components and Chinese-style liquor, according to news reports.

Controls have been eased in other areas of China that are considered at low disease risk, but travel and other curbs still are in place. Factories are reopening, but automakers and other industries aren't expected to return to normal production until at least mid-April due to disruption to supplies of components.