Volkswagen is the latest business to take precautions in the face of Covid-19. At the start of its annual news conference Tuesday, the German automaker said it would be closing the majority of its factories for the next two weeks.

Representatives for the company said that the closures will go into effect after the final employee shifts on Friday. Plants in Italy, one of the biggest global hotspots for coronavirus, have already been shuttered.

Amidst this news, the company also confirmed that its facilities in China are beginning to reopen. While the virus originated in the country late last year, the rate of new cases there has started to decline, prompting companies to resume operations. Apple made a similar announcement recently, confirming that most of its stores in Greater China are now open as it closed locations everywhere else in the world.

“China shows that this crisis can be managed if you are tough on the disciplinary measures and focused on re-launching the economy,” Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said. “I think it’s too early to judge how we’re going to end up in China, but if it can be contained in this first quarter and then we get back to normal again, then I think China is not yet lost for this year.”

Volkswagen is nonetheless warning that 2020 will likely be a tough year due to the outbreak of Covid-19, with the virus presenting unknown challenges for the automaker in the short-term.

“It is uncertain how severely or for how long this will also affect the Volkswagen Group,” said Frank Witter, Group Board of Management Member for Finance and IT. “Currently, it is almost impossible to make a reliable forecast. We are making full use of all measures in task force mode to support our employees and their families and to stabilize our business.”

German auto giant Volkswagen is to close its European factories for two to three weeks to cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis German auto giant Volkswagen is to close its European factories for two to three weeks to cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis Photo: AFP / Ronny Hartmann