The first official infected in Germany by the Chinese virus and a 33-year-old manager of Webasto, a company in the automotive sector. Pierluigi Mennitti’s article from Berlin
With the four cases officially confirmed by the Bavarian health authorities, the Chinese virus has landed in Germany through the doors of the economy. The first official infected and a 33-year-old manager of Webasto, a company in the automotive industry famous above all for its convertible model roofs and panoramic roofs. From the hospital, the doctors let it be known that his condition is improving. And the other three cases also belong to Webasto, disclosed yesterday evening, after the entire group of collaborators who had come into contact with the manager had been subjected to checks. Checks that now extend to their family members and acquaintances: 170 people in all. WEBASTO CLOSES HEADQUARTERS, WORKERS IN HOMEWORKING MODE
For its part, Webasto has temporarily closed the company’s central offices. Until Sunday, the leaders say in a statement. “Most of the employees will work from home,” said company manager Holger Engelmann. At this point, who transmitted the virus to whom among the group of employees is unimportant. What appears certain is that the infection started with a Chinese woman who came to participate in a training course at the Bavarian company. She did not present any symptoms and, during her stay, she was therefore able to move in absolute freedom. Health authorities are now looking for people who, apart from Webasto employees, could have had contact with the woman, who remained in Germany from 19 to 23 January: hoteliers, restaurateurs, potentially anyone.
Despite the calls to avoid panic, there are also false alarms. After the case of a woman in Berlin, who was later affected by a simple seasonal flu, and now under observation a man in Bremenhaven, the commercial port north of Bremen. He is a 47-year-old port operator who recently had contact with Chinese shipyard workers. The man is hospitalized in solitary confinement in a city hospital, has a fever, and his family members have also been placed in solitary confinement as a precautionary measure, but doctors are optimistic and believe that it is “extremely difficult” for the 47-year-old to have contracted the virus Chinese. Already on Monday, a suspicious case, again in Bremenhaven, turned out to be a false alarm. But in the port cities of the north, where container traffic with China is daily,BASF AND COVESTRO SUSPENDING THE TRAVEL OF ITS EMPLOYEES TO CHINA
The fear is that the intense economic relations established between Germany and China make this country more exposed than others to the risk of contagion. “The rapid spread of the virus has frightened economic circles,” writes the Handelsblatt this morning. And some companies are starting to take precautionary measures. This is the case of groups of the caliber of Covestro and Basf, companies that are part of the Dax (Deutscher Aktien Index), the index of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange composed of the 30 German stocks with the highest capitalization and liquidity, which have suspended the travel of their employees in the affected Chinese regions, or companies in the small and medium-sized business segment (the legendary Mittelstand) such as battery manufacturer Hoppecke, which has decided to suspend production at its Chinese factory for a few days. Other companies,LUFTHANSA RECORDS A SLIGHT DECREASE IN BOOKINGS ON FLIGHTS TO AND FROM CHINA
The airlines are already affected. From Lufthansa they let it be known that in recent days they have recorded “a slight reduction in bookings for flights to and from China”. Other airlines have already reduced flight numbers, a measure that according to press sources the United States is also considering. Security measures are gradually being stepped up at German airports. After the installation of notices in three languages ​​(German, English and Chinese) inside the airports, pilots of flights from China must now inform the workers of the German control towers about the health of the passengers before landing. ECONOMISTS ‘FIRST ESTIMATES: CHINESE GROWTH COULD DOWN BY 1%
Economists are still cautious in valuations, but not at all optimistic. “The pandemic will certainly have negative consequences for the economy, but it is still too early to assess the degree,” Clemens Fuest, president of Ifo, the Munich economic research institute, told the Handelsblatt. “Everything will depend on its evolution”, continued Fuest, “but if the situation follows that of Sars in 2003, China’s growth could be reduced by 1% and that of the entire Southeast Asia by half a point”.
The Webasto case is exemplary. The Bavarian company owes its success in recent years above all to its business in China. Of the 13,000 employees, 3,500 are employed in 12 Chinese factories. More than a third of the total turnover of 4.5 billion euros comes from the country of the Dragon. The Bavarian company and world leader in the production of panoramic roofs and one in two cars in China is equipped with this accessory. Chinese factories also produce panoramic roofs for Western brands such as Volkswagen and General Motors. A collapse of Chinese business following the virus could have serious repercussions on corporate balance sheets. “The Wuhan plant is stopped and we still don’t know when we will be able to start again”, said Engelmann for whom, with an eye to his environment,

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