The chaos began unfolding last month when authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong — home to some of the world’s busiest container ports — canceled flights, locked down communities and suspended trade along its coastline to bring a rapid spike in Covid-19 cases under control.

The rate of infections has since improved, and many operations have restarted.

But the damage has been done. Yantian, a port about 50 miles north of Hong Kong, handles goods that would fill 36,000 20-foot containers every day. It was shut down for nearly a week late last month after infections were found among dock workers. While the port has reopened, it is still operating below capacity, creating a huge backlog of containers waiting to leave and ships waiting to dock.

The congestion in Yantian has spilled over to other container ports in Guangdong, including Shekou, Chiwan, and Nansha. All of them are located either in Shenzhen or Guangzhou,…

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