Beijing auto show delayed by coronavirus as some automakers resume production

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

BEIJING — Organizers of the Beijing Motor Show, which is scheduled to be held in late April, said on Monday the event will be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Across mainland China, officials said the total number of coronavirus cases rose by 2,048 to 70,548, with 1,770 deaths.

The Chinese Grand Prix , which was also scheduled for April, will also be postponed, Formula One officials announced last week. A new date, or whether the race will remain on the calendar at all, has not been announced.

Meanwhile, 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. Auto sales in China were down by 18% last month , due in part to the outbreak.

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 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 impact on global supply chains that is only beginning to show up.”

Automakers are under pressure to reverse a 2-year-old sales decline in a Chinese market they hope will propel global revenue.

Sales of SUVs, minivans and sedans hit an annual peak of 24.7 million in 2017 and have declined since then. Last year’s sales tumbled 9.6% to 21.4 million.

The virus “adds to the challenges that the sector is already facing,” said Fitch Ratings in a report.

Coronavirus developments at a glance:

The death toll in mainland China reached 1,770 as of Sunday-end, up by 105 from the previous day, while there were 2,048 new cases, bringing the total count to 70,548.

• In Hubei province , where the outbreak began, 1,933 new cases and 100 new deaths were reported — the lowest daily death count since Feb. 11.

• Outside China, more than 500 cases have been confirmed, mostly of people who travelled from Chinese cities, with five deaths in Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, France and Taiwan.

Japan said on Monday it would limit public crowds in Tokyo, cancelling the emperor’s birthday celebrations and closing next month’s Tokyo Marathon to all but elite professional runners.

Seventy more people were confirmed with the virus on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Sunday, bringing the number of cases from the ship to 355. Japanese media reported on Monday the number of new confirmed cases was 99.

The United States was the first country to evacuate its passengers from the Diamond Princess, flying more than 300 Americans home after two weeks under quarantine, including 14 found to have coronavirus who were kept isolated on the flight.

Holland America Line said it is working with governments and health experts to track passengers who disembarked from its Westerdam cruise ship docked in Cambodia after an American woman tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.