PetroChina Tells its Expats to Buy Medical Supplies and Ship them to Beijing

As the deadly coronavirus triggers shortages of medical supplies in China, businesses are urging employees and their clients to bring back face masks from overseas.

In a sign of how desperate shortages may be getting, companies from PetroChina Co. to Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. are scouring the world for medical supplies to send back home.

Meanwhile, alcohol and ethanol makers including Tsingtao Brewery Co. are shifting to produce disinfectant to help ease a shortage in medical grade alcohol, with an industry association urging others to follow suit.

Over 31,000 people have been infected with coronavirus in China as of Thursday, while more than 600 people have died. As the epidemic has worsened, there’s been a run on face masks, with medical supplies running thin at some hospitals. There’s also a serious shortage of medical alcohol, the China Alcoholic Drinks Association said on its official Wechat account, adding more firms need to produce disinfectant immediately.

From airlines that have halted travel to China to Saudi Arabia blocking expatriates that travel to the country from returning home, the growing health crisis has pushed governments and businesses around the world to adopt unprecedented measures to stem the spread of the virus. Nowhere is the problem more acute than in China, with Hubei province still in lockdown as deaths continue to rise.

PetroChina Co., the country’s biggest oil and gas company, sent out a memo to offices globally, including Tokyo, Houston and Singapore, summoning employees to buy masks and send them back to headquarters in Beijing, according to a copy of the memo seen by Bloomberg News.

Workers at Chinese steel companies have been buying masks and protective suits abroad, including from Japan, Germany and Italy, according to the nation’s iron and steel association.

Monica Mi, an export manager of a construction material factory in Nanjing that sells aluminum curtain walls, has even been asking her clients to buy masks for her factory workers in the past week


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