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Lockdowns Spread in Shanghai as Covid Batters Auto Sector

General Motors’ joint venture in Shanghai maintained production by asking workers to sleep on factory floors and getting passes for trucks to continue deliveries

Shanghai covid
Police officers in protective suits talk to residents near cordoned off food stores following the coronavirus outbreak in Shanghai on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters.


Shanghai’s Covid-19 lockdown has roiled production in the automotive industry as two major suppliers joined Tesla in shutting plants to comply with measures to control the spread of the coronavirus.

General Motors’ joint venture in Shanghai maintained production by asking workers to sleep on factory floors and getting passes for trucks to continue deliveries, two people familiar with the matter said.

A key auto supplier, Aptiv, told workers at one of its Shanghai facilities that supplies Tesla and GM’s Shanghai joint venture to head home on Tuesday because of the need to enforce pandemic controls, people briefed on the measure said.

Meanwhile, Thyssenkrupp said it has closed a powertrain production facility in Shanghai until April 6.

The Aptiv and Thyssenkrupp closures came on the second day of a lockdown in Shanghai, home to 26 million people and a major hub for manufacturing of vehicles and other goods.

The city has instituted tough controls on movements of people to try to control the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

The lockdown, one of the biggest tests for China’s “zero-Covid” strategy, has forced automakers and suppliers to either adapt with extreme measures to keep factories running or to shut down and risk delayed shipments.

German auto supplier Bosch said on Tuesday its two plants in Shanghai were working with reduced personnel.

“We are doing everything we can to maintain the supply chains as much as possible and to serve the demands of our customers,” the company said in a statement.

TCL and Apple suppliers Foxconn and Shenzhen Deren Electronic managed to keep production going in southern China this month with a closed-loop management after Shenzhen and Dongguan were hit by similar lockdown measures.


Shanghai Extends Lockdowns

Meanwhile, Shanghai on Wednesday extended its shutdowns to some western parts of the city, earlier than scheduled, as it reported a total of 5,982 new local cases.

The financial hub, home to 26 million people, is in its third day of a lockdown authorities are imposing by dividing the city roughly along the Huangpu River, splitting the historic centre from the eastern financial and industrial district of Pudong to allow for staggered testing.

While residents in the east have been locked down since Monday, those in the west were officially scheduled to start their four-day lockdown on Friday.

However, the city’s southwestern district of Minhang, home to more than 2.5 million people, announced late on Tuesday it would suspend public bus services until April 5.



Pandemic Control Measures

Several residents living in western districts also received notice on Tuesday from their housing committees that they would be stopped from leaving their compounds for the next seven days, for reasons such as pandemic control or because a neighbour had been a close contact of a positive case.

“We express our deepest thanks to all residents! We will resume normal life soon, but in the next period of time we ask everyone to adhere closely to pandemic control measures, do not gather, and reduce movements,” one notice said.

The city reported a record 5,656 asymptomatic Covid-19 cases and 326 symptomatic cases for March 29, up from 4,381 new asymptomatic cases and 96 new cases with symptoms for the prior day.

The lockdown has roiled auto production in the city too, as two major suppliers, Aptiv and Thyssenkrupp joined Tesla in shutting plants due to Covid control measures.

The Shanghai government said on its official WeChat account late on Tuesday that people who refused to comply with nucleic acid testing could be found legally liable and that it would punish any price gouging found, after people rushed to stock up on food and medical items in anticipation of the lockdowns.

The topic “Pudong pandemic” was one of the top trending items the Chinese Weibo social media platform. A widely shared video showed a robotic dog with a loudhailer strapped on to its back walking around the empty streets of a housing compound, reminding residents to take necessary precautions.


  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell



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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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