Stranded at home for almost two months, migrant worker Huang Qizhi was worried he might not be able to pay back his monthly loans.
"Qianjiang was previously rated as a high-risk region, thus we were discouraged to go outside of Hubei, and had no other options," the 54-year old complained. Without salaries, he had to wait anxiously, and his employer, a textile exporter in eastern China, did likewise, Huang added, referring to the delay and cancellation of some European orders over the last few days.
Known as China's crayfish city and located about 150 kilometers from Wuhan, Qianjiang actually took the move to isolate itself earlier than other cities in Hubei Province. And the move has paid off. Now rated as low-risk, Qianjiang is among the earliest in the province to end its lockdown.
China announced a lockdown of 13 cities in Hubei in late January to contain the further spread of the virus and extended the Spring Festival holiday to February 2, which delayed the normal operation of business.
Resumption of work and production has been put forward steadily recently as effective efforts seen in virus prevention and control. Over 90 percent of the major industrial enterprises in China's provincial-level regions except for certain areas including Hubei, the hardest-hit province of the epidemic, have resumed work and production, and Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Shandong, Guangxi and Chongqing have fully resumed work and production, according to the country's top economic planner.
About 100 million migrant workers went out to work, 80 percent of whom returned hometown for Spring Festival holiday, said China's human resource authority on Thursday.
Local official in Qianjiang said inbound and outbound travel are basically possible for migrant workers now, as the government has arranged coaches for hundreds of them heading to Shaoxing in east China's Zhejiang Province.
"There is a high demand within China for Hubei workers," said Cheng Wenhui, director of Qianjiang Bureau of Human Resource and Social Security, noting most of them have strong willing to go back to work since they haven't been paid for at least two months.
"We're coordinating with cities and enterprises to help meet demand in some key sectors," Cheng said.
With assistance from the government, Huang's group of migrant workers are set to leave Qianjiang as almost 90 percent of the city has resumed work.
Concerns and hopes
However, concerns remain, such as their health conditions, and who will foot the bill if isolation or quarantine is required.
And given how heavily the country's catering industry has been affected, Cheng said those working in services sectors are unlikely to return to work any time soon.
A local petroleum company, which is on the list of China's top 500 private enterprises, is also severely affected.
The company said its profit in the first quarter had declined by 70 percent.
"The zero-sales situation during the epidemic had posed a threat to the inventory of refined oil," said Xiao Shengqiang with King'ao Chemical said. "The proportion of working personnel was less than 60 percent."
Many installations were shut down, he said, noting the refinery has decided to compress its major productivity while ramping up its residual liquified gas in order to secure energy supplies.
With no new confirmed cases reported for weeks in the city, communities are now allowing people from outside the province to return, as 95 percent of its refinery have resumed operation.
Local authority hopes that life and business will soon be back to normal once the provincial government gives green light to the whole transportation.