General Motors‘ Chinese joint venture partner, SAIC-GM-Wuling, will soon begin producing medical face masks to help protect against the spread of coronavirus in the country,
According to Reuters, the company announced via social media this week that it would set up 14 production lines in China for making face masks, which will be able to produce about 1.7 million masks daily.
The company, one of the biggest automakers in China, is one of several major corporations that have repurposed production lines to produce the masks amid the coronavirus outbreak. Two rival automakers, BYD and Guangzhou Automobile Group, also said this week they will use existing production lines to produce masks.
Additionally, Foxconn, a manufacturing partner of Apple Inc., said this week that it had begun trial production of surgical masks at a plant in Shenzhen and plans to produce about 2 million masks daily by the end of February. A number of large apparel manufacturers in the country have committed to producing disposable medical suits for doctors and nurses, as well.
Demand for surgical masks capable of preventing the transmission of the virus has skyrocketed both inside and outside of China following the outbreak, leading to a worldwide shortage. The World Health Organization warned Friday that there is currently a “chronic shortage” of various medical supplies that can help prevent the spread of the virus or treat it.
“We’re sending testing kits, mask, gloves, respirators and gowns to countries in every region. However the world is facing a chronic shortage of personal protective equipment,” WHO’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Last month, SAIC-GM-Wuling said it would extend its Lunar New Year by a week, with workers remaining off the job until February 10th. Other companies have implemented similar measures amid the outbreak, including Volkswagen and Toyota.
GM has also implement travel restrictions for employees traveling to China, barring any travel to the country that is not business-critical and “only then after review of the request and assessment from our medical staff.”