Virus outbreak causes Japan firms to halt China business

05, Feb. 2020

(Photo taken in April 2019 shows Japanese carmaker Honda Motor Co.'s plant in the Chinese city of Wuhan.)
(Photo taken in April 2019 shows Japanese carmaker Honda Motor Co.'s plant in the Chinese city of Wuhan.)

TOKYO, Kyodo - The ongoing outbreak of a new coronavirus prompted Japanese companies Tuesday to announce a partial halt of their China businesses, with Nissan Motor Co. delaying its planned restart of factories and Japanese airlines suspending more flights from later this month.

Of the four Nissan factories in China, one in Hubei in the central part of the country will restart operations sometime after Feb. 14, while the other three in different areas will resume after Monday, the company said Tuesday.

The automaker had planned to keep plants closed until Tuesday.

Nissan's operations in China had been suspended during the Lunar New Year holiday through late January, which was extended due to the spread of the virus originating in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province.

"We will consider when to restart our operations while monitoring the spread of the virus and (its effects on) the parts supply chain," a Nissan official said.

Nissan's move followed similar decisions by other Japanese automakers with a foothold in China to postpone the restart of operations after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Toyota Motor Corp. said last Wednesday it has decided to delay the restart of four auto plants in China until sometime after Monday, rather than early February as originally scheduled.

Honda Motor Co. also said last week it has decided to push back the reopening of its auto plants in Wuhan, motorcycle production bases in the suburbs of Shanghai and Tianjin, as well as auto and motorcycle factories in Guangzhou.

Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. also said Tuesday they will suspend flights including those between Narita airport near Tokyo and Beijing from later this month through the end of March.

JAL will halt Narita-Beijing and other flights from Feb. 17 through March 28. As a result, the total number of JAL flights linking the two countries will be decreased from 98 round trips per week to 43.

ANA said it will also stop flights between Narita and Beijing from next Monday through March 29, in addition to its already suspended services between Narita and Wuhan. Operations between Tokyo's Haneda airport and Beijing are to be reduced by half, to seven round trips per week.

With respect to the negative impact on the economy, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda pointed to the decreasing number of Chinese tourists.

"We need to be aware of the possibility of the impact growing further," Kuroda said in a parliamentary session, in response to questions from an opposition lawmaker, explaining that the presence of the Chinese economy has increased compared with the time of the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The number of people infected with the pneumonia-causing coronavirus has reached nearly 20,500 in China, with the death toll increasing to 425 on the mainland, the country's health authorities said Tuesday. (Kyodo)