Journalist Fabian Kretschmer claimed in a DW interview (at 1m56):

For every case you have to shut down a factory, you have to shut down a port. In May, for example, they had to shut down the Yantian port near Shenzen, and that was basically the biggest incident disrupting global supply chains. It had a bigger impact than even the incident at the Suez Canal.

This was said in the context of news about a newer incident, subtitled as:

China has suspended operations at the world's third busiest cargo port after a worker was infected with the coronavirus.

Did China shut down an entire port after finding one Covid-19 case?

Did this closure have a bigger disruptive effect on supply chains than the Suez incident of March 2021, in which an adrift container ship blocked the canal? Is there some quantitative data to substantiate this (latter) claim?

  • Can you add dates (or approximate dates, like early June 2021), e.g. for the claim and the (alleged) start of the shutdown? Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 9:25
  • @PeterMortensen: no such dates are provided in the video besides "May" [2021], which is already in the quote, so I'd be second guessing. It's for answers to describe the event that happened, including how long it lasted. Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 9:27
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    Possibly more a case that the Suez incident was a nothingburger. Many of the ships coming through there were "slow steaming" anyway (running 50-70% of design cruise to conserve fuel), and could top up while waiting then run at full speed to make up time. They had every incentive to; missing their window at the destination port would put them in a long queue to unload. Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 0:21

2 Answers 2


No, it wasn't one case, but an outbreak. That appears to have been a misinterpretation of the claim.

Fortune put the outbreak at 'about 150' COVID-19 cases.

The size of the disruption to supply chains is backed by a media briefing from shipping company Maersk

Seatrade Maritime News reported on the claim:

Putting the magnitude of the issue at Yantian port is causing container shipping into sharp perspective Vincent Clerc, AP Moller-Maersk’s CEO of Ocean & Logistics, stated: “I would say this for us is a much bigger disruption than the Ever Given getting stuck in the Suez Canal for some days because of the duration and the importance of Yantian as a gateway.”

The blockage of the Suez Canal only lasted for six days, while the situation in Yantian has already lasted several weeks with no end in sight for the coming weeks either. The port handles around 13.5m teu a year or about 36,400 teu a day, making a key gateway port on a global scale.

“Right now, we have vessel delays of up to 16 days outside Yantian which is of course going to cause significant ripple effect across the network from a reliability perspective,” Clerc explained.

Lars Jensen, CEO of Danish consultancy Vespucci Maritime, made similar claims:

Yantian handled 13.3m teu in 2020, equal to 36,400 teu per day. Presuming that Yantian – responsible for more than one-third of Guangdong’s foreign trade and one-fourth of China’s trade with the US – has been working at 30% operating efficiency since the Covid-19 outbreak was detected 14 days ago, that would mean 25,500 teu per day have not been handled, totalling some 357,000 teu to date.

Putting this in context, when Suez was blocked by the Ever Given this impacted a daily flow of 55,000 teu. However, March’s Suez crisis lasted for just six days.

These seem to be back of the envelope calculations performed by experts who have a financial stake in the outcome, rather than a full peer-reviewed analysis by economists, but it appears reasonable justification for the journalist using it as a comparison to help people understand the magnitude of the problem.

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    Interesting in the (English-speaking) Chinese media I could only find one article about the Yantian outbreak, which only mentioned two cases. Perhaps this is why/how the info about that was remembered by some. Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 20:15
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    There's a later article in Chinese state media that discussed shipping delays, but this doesn't discuss the magnitude of the outbreak... at the port. It does discuss it in the province as a whole: "As of midnight on Sunday, 2,542 confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the province, including 1,052 imported cases, according to the Health Commission of Guangdong Province." Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 20:21
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    Also, the Fortune piece you've quoted for the 150-cases figure doesn't given any details on that in the body of the article, like a source or something. The number only appears in the title and 1st sentence. I suspect the number comes from a Reuters report, but it wasn't specific to the port reuters.com/world/china/… Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 20:36
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    Might be helpful to link at least one instance of "teu" for those not in the know: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-foot_equivalent_unit
    – David
    Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 8:25
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    @Fizz: I agree that this answer doesn't delve far into the question of the size of the outbreak, for two reasons: (1) I, perhaps wrongly, thought the size of the impact was the core of the reason for your skepticism, and (2) listening to Kretschmer's words, my interpretation was he didn't intend to imply the outage was due to a single case, despite the preceding phrase about every case closing a factory. I think if we asked him "Did you mean there was one case behind the port closure?" he would deny it. I acknowledge this is open to interpretation.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 10:24

According to a CNBC report, this claim is accurate: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/13/chinas-zero-covid-strategy-to-disrupt-shipping-as-ningbo-zhoushan-port-shuts-.html

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    At least quote the article. "China has shut down a key terminal at its Ningbo-Zhoushan port, the third busiest port in the world, after one worker was found to be infected by Covid". Link only answers are discouraged because of link rot. Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 20:07
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    You are allowed and encouraged to edit your answer to improve it. This is normal procedure on StackExchange, since it is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 0:25

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