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Automakers in China gradually reopen after virus shutdown

SeattlePI.com Monday, 17 February 2020
BEIJING (AP) — Automakers are reopening factories in China that were idled by anti-virus controls as they try to reverse a sales slump in their biggest market.

Local officials have orders from the ruling Communist Party to get businesses functioning again while still enforcing anti-disease curbs that shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy.

“Local governments are putting their full weight behind helping businesses open,” the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, Ker Gibbs, said in a statement.

Toyota Motor Co. said two factories reopened Monday with one of the usual two daily shifts working. Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co., Mercedes Benz and Chinese brand Geely resumed some operations last week. General Motors Co. said a “staggered start” across its factories began Saturday. Nissan Motor Co. plans to restart this week.

Automakers say they are checking employees for the virus's telltale fever, barring visitors and telling employees to stay home if they have been in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, or other areas that have imposed travel curbs.

The outbreak prompted the government to extend the Lunar New Year holiday to keep factories and offices closed and workers at home.

The government has told employees who can work from home to stay there, but China’s vast manufacturing industries that supply the world with smartphones, toys and other goods need workers in factories.

Obstacles include a requirement for workers who return from other areas — as millions are doing after the holiday — to make sure they are virus-free by staying at home for its 14-day incubation period.

“Most factories have a severe shortage of workers, even after they are allowed to open,” said Gibbs. “This is going to have a severe...
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