Chinese Enterprises participating in the Joint Construction of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) have been widely praised for overcoming tough conditions caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic and making steady progress in BRI related projects.

While the outbreak forced many local companies in Cambodia to shut down, the wastewater treatment sub-project in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, has not been suspended, said an employee who works at the project’s construction site.

The precautionary measures taken by Beijing Urban Construction Group Co., Ltd. (BUCG), the company behind the project, have been reassuring, said the employee, disclosing that BUCG provided face masks, protective materials, and safety education for every worker at the site.

BUCG’s efforts to keep the project’s construction going on as normal while at the same time ensuring the safety of personnel amid the epidemic has shown that Chinese enterprises have a sense of responsibility, noted a female local staff member in charge of government relations for the project.

“I believe China will defeat the epidemic. The Chinese side has injected confidence into the project through practical action,” she said.

“Chinese companies have overcome many difficulties in the construction of the project, making an important contribution to infrastructure construction in Siem Reap,” said an official with the Department of Public Works and Transport in Siem Reap province.

According to the project’s contract, the construction company has the right to stop work and claim compensation from the owner in the event of an epidemic.

But considering the importance of the project and urgent need to treat wastewater in Siem Reap, the Chinese side decided to continue construction and even promised to complete the project ahead of schedule, disclosed the official, who is also an executive in the management team of the project’s owner.

The novel coronavirus epidemic has created major challenges for construction, as some workers involved in the project who returned to China for the Spring Festival holiday were unable to return on time, and goods and materials purchased from domestic suppliers in China could not be transported to Cambodia because of the epidemic.

As part of its effort to continue making progress in the project, BUCG quickly recruited and trained local workers, and found substitute sources in Cambodia for materials that the project ran short of, in a bid to minimise the impact of the epidemic.

On February 23, the extension to Sri Lanka’s Southern Expressway was officially opened to traffic, with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attending the project’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The extension to the Southern Expressway is 96 kilometres in length, linking capital Colombo and several other cities in the country, including Matara, Galle, and Hambantota. The expressway extension also shortens the time required to drive from two major ports in the country to its two major airports from five hours to two hours, significantly boosting the main transportation network, logistics, and tourism sector of Sri Lanka.

In fact, after the outbreak, a local administrative assistant of the Sri Lankan branch of China State Construction Engineering Corporation, one of the project’s Chinese contractors, was initially a little worried, as the project was near completion and there were concerns about whether the schedule would be affected by the epidemic.

However, quick response measures taken by the company gave effective reassurances to everyone involved in the project.

Posters were quickly put up on notice boards at the construction site, sharing information on the novel coronavirus and ways to protect against it, such as disinfecting office areas and vehicles used in the project, asking workers to wear masks, requesting that returned personnel stay under quarantine in separate rooms, and having people’s body temperatures taken twice a day.

Work has not been affected by the epidemic, according to an environment engineer at the project, who added that Chinese companies have also actively cooperated with local health authorities, invited health and epidemic prevention personnel to promote knowledge on prevention and control of the epidemic on site, and collected information on hospitals that can receive suspected cases of novel coronavirus infection.

As well as dispelling worries and doubts about the epidemic, the measures also ensured progress in the project, said the engineer.

Chinese companies did their best to reduce the negative impact of the epidemic on the project & ensured that the expressway extension was opened to traffic on schedule, said an official with the Road Development Authority of Sri Lanka, who was also a representative of the owner of the project.

Chinese companies have shown a sense of responsibility and strong ability to mobilise, the official noted.