Embassy warns Portuguese of “heightened risks” of evacuation from China’s coronavirus epicentre

Coronavirus outbreak “affecting Portuguese companies”

The effects of Covid-19 – the potentially deadly strain of Coronavirus that has triggered a global public health emergency – is now starting to seriously impact on Portuguese businesses.

Explains Público explains today, worst affected have been SMEs (small and medium sized firms) in the food and drink sector.

Alberto Carvalho Neto, president of the association of young businesspeople ‘China-Portugal’ classifies the first quarter of the year as having been “practically lost”.

Another overriding victim has been the textile sector, he said.

One factory in Lousada for example has already had to partly suspend production because it can’t get the ‘raw materials’ it needs.

Wine exports have been particularly badly hit.

Wine is something the Chinese only drink at social occasions, explained Neto. And with the country in a kind of ‘lock down’, social occasions – and more importantly events that normally bring crowds together – are now taboo.

The only sector that has registered a marked increase in demand is that supplying medical products and equipment.

The sector usually exports to Mozambique and Angola, said Neto, but since Covid-19, business has been largely diverted to service China and Macau.

The automobile sector has also registered in a dip in demand for components that used to be exported to China on a constant basis.

Neto says however that the way forwards is “not to panic”, and to try and show ‘solidarity’ at this difficult time.

On the wider scale, Covid-19 is having a devastating effect on businesses everywhere. In China dozens of factories have been closed for some time and these closures have now spread to neighbouring countries.

Analysts predict the virus could cost the global economy more than a trillion US dollars in lost output, particularly if it turns into a pandemic – a scenario that the World Health Organisation is trying very much to refute.

Radio France Internationale broadcast the fears of the country’s new health minister Olivier Veran – who said he believes there is a “credible risk” that Covid-19 could indeed become a pandemic – reporting that ‘panic buying and event cancellations’ are now being witnessed throughout the world.

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