UK steel mills still working despite coronavirus outbreak

All UK steelmakers are still producing despite the COVID-19 outbreak and some restrictions put in place by the government, the UK Steel Association told S&P Global Platts on Tuesday

“The message from government is that there is no need for our businesses to close…we’re obviously aware of what is happening in the supply chain [regarding] automotive production, and at some point the rest of the supply chain will undoubtedly respond,” the association said.

In Europe, carmakers and major construction firms are shutting factories and work sites as the COVID-19 pandemic causes disruptions to supplies, staff shortages and collapsing demand.

SMMT, the UK Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, told Platts that so far in the UK car manufacturers that have temporary shutdowns are: Land Rover, Nissan, BMW, Toyota, Honda, PSA, Bentley, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce.

In Italy, France and Germany as already reported, most of the steel plants have temporary shut down or they are working at their lower historical rates.

UK producers make about 7.3 million metric tons of steel a year, around 65% of the UK’s annual requirement. The industry employs 32,600 people directly in the UK and supports a further 41,100 in supplies chains.

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people. He also ordered the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods. According to the government statement seen by Platts, business that will not need to close are: supermarkets, petrol stations, post offices, launderettes, bike shops, pet shops, hardware stores and banks.

At the moment there is nevertheless confusion in particular over whether workers should count their jobs as essential, with construction workers, taxi drivers and tradespeople unsure. Michael Gove, UK Cabinet Office minister, said Tuesday morning that construction workers should still be going to work while staying two meters apart and tradespeople, such as plumbers and electricians, could tend to emergencies in people’s homes.

— Annalisa Villa