Chinese commuters navigate a bus terminal in Beijing on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

It’s unclear when facilities closed due to COVID-19 may reopen

Recent indications from municipal authorities in China that certain convention and exhibition facilities closed because of the coronavirus pandemic would be allowed to reopen at least temporarily have been countermanded by the country’s central government.

According to Cliff Wallace, president of Atlanta-based CW Venue Advisory Services LLC, it’s again unclear when public assembly facilities will be allowed to resume hosting large-scale events. When they are allowed, strictures such as mandatory temperature monitoring, closely regulated social distancing and checks of identification cards embedded with data about individuals’ health status are likely to be widespread, he said.

Wallace, who was managing director of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 1995 to 2012 and was instrumental in helping that venue and others cope with SARS in early 2003, said authorities in China are wary of reopening public assembly facilities too soon and are keenly aware of the spread of COVID-19 cases in Japan.

China is reporting shrinking numbers of new cases, attributed largely to strict measures imposed after the outbreak began in the central city of Wuhan in Hubei province.

Those entering the country, even from Hong Kong, are subject to mandatory 14-day quarantines, according to Wallace, who said an official from the Zhengzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre, in the capital of Henan province, is under just such a quarantine after crossing into Shenzhen from Hong Kong.

Wallace was employed by and from 2006 to ’18 served as chairman of a Hong Kong company involved in the management of the Zhengzhou center. The same company, of which Wallace remains an executive adviser, opened and owns the Shenyang New World Expo in the capital of Liaoning province in China’s north.

“The fact that there is a big spike in a country in Asia and near China is going to make a big difference and increase the risk in the eyes of China,” he said. “That could slow down the reopening much more.”

When facilities are reopened, Wallace thinks it will be a blanket reopening, as opposed to region by region, unless clusters of outbreak emerge again in different areas of China.

“The overall situation in China right now is relatively flat,” he said. “Cases each day are minuscule and if it (continues) like that, I think there will be a blanket reopening.”