INCREASING concerns regarding how the coronavirus is impacting a Kilkeel-based factory have been described as a “very worrying situation”.
Collins Aerospace located on the Moor Road is one of the largest recruiters in the Mourne area.
The company provides a comprehensive range of aviation electronics and communications solutions to Ministries of Defence, integrators, aircraft manufacturers and airlines.
Many components for the aircraft products built at the Kilkeel site are shipped in from China and in recent weeks following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, the company has seen a reduction in parts coming in to the Kilkeel factory, a source has confirmed.
A spokesperson from Collins Aerospace explained: “We are monitoring our supply chain closely and are in constant contact to understand any potential impact so that we can make any necessary adjustments to operations.
“As a global company, we are taking this matter seriously and continue to monitor the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) closely.
“UTC has provided guidance to employees based on current guidelines from the World Health Organisation, CDC and the US State Department.
“We remain in regular communications with our employees, contractors and visitors to impacted regions.
“As part of those efforts, we are informing them of any necessary precautions specific to their location to ensure their health and safety and mitigate any potential impact to our global operations.
“Additionally, we are monitoring our supply chain closely and are in constant contact to understand any potential impact, so that we can evaluate whether to make any adjustments to operations.”
Mournes Councillor Sean Doran (Sinn Fein) said: “This is a very worrying situation as the Collins Aerospace factory is one of the biggest employers not only in the Kilkeel area but in the whole of South Down.
“A lot of families depend on their livelihood from working there.
“I am sure the company are addressing the supply concerns to the best of their ability and I hope any problems can be resolved before it affects the level of work and employment at Collins Aerospace.
Mournes DUP Councillor Glyn Hanna added: “I am aware of concerns over the shutdown of factories in China which supply components to manufacturers like Collins Aerospace.
“This may turn into a major issue as staff may have hours cut.
“I also understand the shortages can be managed in the short term but I am deeply concerned if the Chinese factories do not start manufacturing production.
“Northern Ireland could be damaged as a result.
“I have confidence however, that the management of Collins Aerospace are more than able to manage the situation and myself and the DUP are ready to support them in any way we can.”
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways.
Over 70,000 people living in China have been confirmed as infected with the virus.
Outside mainland China, there have been more than 500 cases in 24 countries.
The first European death was confirmed on Saturday, 15 February after a Chinese tourist died in France. The gentleman arrived in France from China at the end of January and was placed in quarantine in a hospital in Paris but later died.
UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate. However, the risk to individuals remains low.
There is currently no vaccine for the virus and it is still unknown how it spreads from person to person.
The NHS has stated that it is highly unlikely coronavirus can be spread through packages from affected countries or through food.