Workers building the Huoshenshan hospital in Wuhan © Getty Images
Workers building the Huoshenshan hospital in Wuhan © Getty Images

Coronavirus disrupts business across sectors

29 January 2020

The coronavirus has disrupted businesses from carmakers to tech firms following lockdowns across Hubei province – a key industrial hub in China.

Car manufacturers have taken precautionary measures, including banning travel to mainland China, halting operations, and returning employees and their families to home countries.

Firms affected include Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor, PSA Group, Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford.

While Toyota does not have a plant in Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, operations at production plants in other parts of China have been suspended until 9 February and travel to Hubei has been restricted. 

Maki Niimi, a spokesman for Toyota, told the Japan Times it was difficult to comment on supply chain impacts due to the “extensive supply chain in the automotive industry”.

Offices and factories across various sectors were closed due to Chinese New Year, so firms and local governments have extended closures due to the outbreak.   

Apple could experience supply chain disruptions as iPhone assembly plants are located close to Wuhan, including in the Henan province and in Shanghai, according to Bloomberg.

Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu have advised employees to work from home. The Suzhou local government in the southeast Jiangsu province, which has a prominent manufacturing hub, has barred businesses from returning to work until 8 February.

Food companies including McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks are closing temporarily to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. 

Starbucks has closed over 2,000 stores across China, which is more than half its total stores in the country, and has a limited menu for the remaining open stores due to “supply chain constraints”, according to CNN.

All transport hubs including airports, railway and bus stations have been closed in Wuhan and shutdowns are under way in other cities across Hubei.

Hong Kong introduced further restrictions to travel between Hong Kong and China on Sunday. All ferries and rail services from mainland China have been suspended and 50% of all inbound China flights have been cut.

United Airlines has been “coordinating closely with the CDC [US Center for Disease Control and Prevention]” and has suspended some flights between Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai from 1-8 February due to declining demand. British Airways has cancelled flights to and from mainland China.

China has this week accelerated the customs clearance process for importing medicines, disinfectant products, protective equipment and medical devices to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak, said the General Administration of Customs.

The Chinese government has allocated a fund of $640m towards tackling the virus outbreak, and the Shanghai branch of the Red Cross has received funds of over $8m and $700,000 worth of medical goods, including masks, disinfectant, protective suits and medicines, according to the government. 

Red Cross contributions have been assigned to 22 hospitals in Wuhan.

The Dabie Mountain Regional Medical Centre in the Huangzhou district was converted within 48hrs to be used as a hospital for the outbreak, opening on Tuesday. 

Wuhan is also building two makeshift hospitals – Huoshenshan and Leishenshan – on a fast-tracked schedule with a collective capacity of up to 2,500 beds. These are expected to open on 3 and 5 February.

The number of coronavirus cases has risen to 6,055 with 132 deaths in China, and the total number of cases worldwide has reached 6,152, with cases confirmed in 19 countries including the US, Thailand, Singapore, Japan and France.

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