The global business industry is on edge, waiting to see what kind of disruptions to expect from a flu-like illness first reported in China, but now making its way to other countries.
The Coronavirus first showed up in Wuhan, a city larger than New York and Chicago combined, which is also an industrial center, home to regional offices for chemical companies, molders, auto suppliers and automakers. At least 26 people have died.
The Imperial Colege of London says the Wuhan international airport typically sees more than 3,300 passengers per day, so hundreds of thousands of people may have been exposed to the virus by unsuspecting passengers long before the airport, and all other forms of public transportation, was forced to shut down. The national government has now added restrictions to more cities in the province, impacting more than 35 million people.
Coronavirus already is impacting business travel. Just in the auto industry, General Motors Co. put a temporary restriction on travel to Wuhan, Ford Motor Co. suspended all travel to Wuhan and Fiat Chrysler advised its workers that travel to China was "only for essential business."
Inteva Products LLC tells Plastics News it is monitoring the situation in China and keeping lines of communication open to update employees. Most of its workers in China are on the Spring Festival Holiday at this time, so it has not had to close any plants. It has suspended travel to Wuhan, but has not changed travel plans to other locations in China, although that could change.
"Right now it is: Listen to guidance and advice, learn and encourage everyone to take precautionary actions to help prevent the spread of this virus," an Inteva spokeswoman said.
The virus may be a reminder of the impact of SARS in 2003, which halted some business travel and forced the postponement of a Toronto-area event.
Of course the outbreak comes just as China is about to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which prompts many businesses to shut down for a week. The impact on production may not be clear for weeks to come. Stay tuned.