Magna International Inc. has banned employee travel to China and extended holiday shutdowns at some Chinese factories amid a widening impact from the new coronavirus.
Other Canadian businesses that have operations in the country have recalled employees and are bracing for production delays as health authorities around the world try to contain the virus that took hold in central China and has spread to at least 18 countries.
The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on Thursday as governments around the world repatriated diplomats and took steps to combat the spread of the illness that has killed 170 people in China and infected thousands.
The virus has sickened three people in Canada – two in Ontario and another in British Columbia. They had recently returned from Wuhan in central China, where the outbreak began.
Magna extended the Lunar New Year shutdown at “several” plants until Feb. 9 to allow health officials additional time to contain the outbreak, and is screening workers in some regions for the virus, said Tracy Fuerst, a spokeswoman for the auto-parts maker.
Magna, which has almost 19,000 employees in China at 55 factories, is also acquiring and shipping medical supplies – mainly face masks – to its operations there.
“On a precautionary basis, a travel ban to China has been implemented,” said Ms. Fuerst, adding Magna is donating US$500,000 to emergency health workers and agencies in the affected regions.
Montreal-based CSL Group, which sails dozens of cargo ships around the world, has also halted employee travel to China. CSL has seven to 10 employees in China supervising the construction or refitting of three vessels at shipyards in Jiangyin and Nantong, coastal areas far from Wuhan.
“All of the Canadians who were working there are back in Canada and we’ve halted all travel to China for the time being,” Brigitte Hébert, a spokeswoman for CSL, said by phone.
Another Canadian shipowner, Algoma Central Corp., is overseeing the construction of a new ship at a Chinese shipyard. Gregg Ruhl, chief executive of the St. Catharines, Ont.-based company, said Algoma has one Canadian on site, and that employee is staying put. Mr. Ruhl said the extension to the holiday could delay the return of much of the local work force, but will likely mean a one-week delay to next spring’s delivery of the ship, a Great Lakes bulk carrier named the Captain Henry Jackman. “We’re optimistic it won’t be a long delay,” Mr Ruhl said.
Air Canada on Wednesday cancelled its direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The suspension, which followed the government’s advisory that Canadians avoid all non-essential travel to China, will last until the end of February.
“It was a decision we took for health and safety reasons,” said Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesman.
Chinese airlines still flying to Canada on Friday from Chinese destinations included China Eastern, China Southern and Air China.
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