Chinese companies advance safe operation of overseas projects amid pandemic

Updated: June 10, 2020 Source: People’s Daily
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The Third Construction Co., Ltd. of China Construction Third Engineering Bureau sets up a temporary shop at a construction site in Algeria to provide necessities for its employees during the outbreak. (Photo by Li Jianfei)

Taking strict containment measures, Chinese companies have both advanced progress of overseas projects and secured the health of their overseas employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is very considerate of you and I’m sure we could defeat the epidemic guided by your successful experience,” said Salim, an Algerian engineer working for a project in Algeria undertaken by the Third Construction Co., Ltd. of China Construction Third Engineering Bureau.

He praised the Chinese company’s practice when talking to Li Fei, deputy head of the company’s pandemic containment team over the phone, right after learning that the company allowed its employees to work from home during the pandemic for the sake of their safety.

The pandemic containment team was established immediately after Algeria reported the first pneumonia case on February 25, Li introduced. The company required all of its employees, both Chinese and foreigners, to report their health conditions on a daily basis, and distributed masks to them. Besides, the company also requested its employees to disinfect offices, cafeterias and vehicles.

“We didn’t dismiss anyone amid the pandemic. We did our best to ensure the safety of all our foreign employees and help solve their problems,” said Li.

Since some of them don’t have fixed residence or source of income during the pandemic, our company provided them with free accommodation and meals, Li introduced.

Besides, the company also offered them with new jobs to work as patrols in a bid to support them with stable income.

Since Africa was hit by the pandemic, Chinese engineering projects in Africa have become a front for China-Africa joint efforts to fight the disease, where China’s anti-pandemic experience was promoted by Chinese constructors.

The Caculo Cabaca hydropower project in Dondo, Angola undertaken by China Gezhouba Group Co., Ltd. (CGGC) is the largest hydropower station constructed by a Chinese enterprise in Africa. Once completed, it is expected to offer more than 40 percent of the country’s electricity supply and greatly promote local economic and social development.

“Over 200 Chinese employees and about 200 foreigners work on the construction site,” said Peng Zhan, director of the project’s quality and security inspection department, adding that it wasn’t really easy to prevent the spread of the virus while ensuring the progress of the project.

Drawing on the experience of Chinese communities in combating the virus, the company divided the construction areas and lodging houses into 7 independent units. Each unit is equipped with a specially-assigned employee who records and reports the health conditions of the employees in the unit and monitors the disinfection and prevention work.

The anti-epidemic measures have achieved remarkable results, with no suspected or confirmed cases found within the project, Peng noted.

For the 475 local employees working for the Mekelle water supply project, another CGGC project in Ethiopia, preventative materials were extremely scarce commodities. To cope with the situation, the material buyer at the project department Yuan Xianchao contacted his colleagues back in China and purchased 100,000 masks and other supplies for the local employees.

“We are at ease with you here,” said an Ethiopian employee after receiving masks and disinfectant from his Chinese employer.

“As the local testing and medical resources are limited, we have strictly followed the practices at home to prevent the virus and ensure safety,” said Li Fengbiao, manager of the Mekelle water supply project.

According to him, temperature taking, hand washing, disinfection and registration have been developed into a routine at the construction site.

Besides, it also locked down the lodging houses of the employees, asked them to work in shifts and separated the construction areas. “The locals trusted China’s experience and were willing to cooperate,” Li said. 

Editor: 刘婷