Europe is the new epicentre of the global coronavirus pandemic, and this has seen many carmakers suspend production. The latest news is from the biggest of them all. The Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand has announced that it will be gradually suspending production at its European plants, and this will also affect Volkswagen Group Components plants.

VW says that the move is in response to the impending rapid decline in demand for cars. “Risks in connection with suppliers’ supply chains are also increasing. This is due to the significantly accelerated rate of infection by coronavirus and the resulting measures taken by the authorities,” the company said in a statement.

The two-week closure applies to production facilities in Wolfsburg, Emden, Dresden, Osnabrück, Zwickau, Bratislava (Slovakia), Pamplona (Spain) and Palmela (Portugal) are affected, as well as the VW Components plants at Brunswick, Chemnitz, Hanover, Kassel, Salzgitter and SITECH.

“The spread of coronavirus in Europe is increasingly having an adverse impact on the demand situation. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to supply our plants with outsourced parts. We are convinced that this will also be in the interests of our employees who are becoming increasingly concerned about the spread of corona,” said Ralf Brandstätter, COO of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand.

Works council chairman Bernd Osterloh put it simply. “At times when people can no longer meet on playgrounds or for concerts, go to church or visit restaurants in the evening and are no longer buying cars, and Volkswagen has supply problems, production cannot simply continue as if nothing had happened,” he said.

Production suspension aside, VW is implementing further measures to prevent the spread the virus. From today, the company canteens, self-service shops, cafeterias, bistros, restaurants and catering services will be closed. All meetings will be held by Skype or video, and all major events have been canceled. Working from home is now allowed and there will be a ban on business trips.

Wolfsburg said that special protection applies for employees with special health risks as a result of pre-existing conditions affecting the heart or lungs and employees with weakened immune systems, among others, without elaborating. Employees returning to Germany from other countries after March 14 will be barred from company property for 14 weekdays.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control and prevention agency, moved its coronavirus threat risk for the country from “moderate” to “high” this week. As of yesterday, Germany has over 9,200 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 24 deaths.