MIAMI – Boeing announces it will halt the production of its wide-bodies for 14 days in the Puget Sound area starting March 25 due to COVID-19 concerns.

The company will reduce its production activity today to prepare a suspension on Wednesday as a way to ensure the safety of its workers, after the state of Washington was declared in emergency due to the acceleration of the spread of the deadly virus, according to its statement.

“This necessary step protects our employees and the communities where they work and live,” said Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun. Starting today, production employees will receive guidance on their roles in the suspension process.

Boeing is in contact with affected customers and will work with them to develop plans that ensure its support during this period. Critical distribution operations related to airline, government, maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) customers will remain.

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Boeing also said in the statement that once the shutdown passes, it will restart production with a focus on safety, quality and meeting customer commitments, which will be a “key step to enabling the aerospace sector to bridge to recovery”.

While affected employees will continue work from home, those who cannot work remotely will receive paid leave for the initial 10 working days of the suspension, covering the 14 calendar day suspension period. The measure means a doubling in the company policy.

Calhoun said that Boeing regrets the difficulty that the suspension will cause to customers, suppliers, stakeholders, and employees, adding that “it’s vital to maintain health and safety for all those who support our products and services, and to assist in the national effort to combat the spread.”

In the meantime and for future actions, Boeing will continue working closely with public health officials, said Calhoun.

In the past days, about a dozen employees at the final assembly lines were diagnosed with coronavirus and one died yesterday, according to a report by Leeham News.

The American corporation also said that it is working to minimize the impact on “the company’s ability to deliver and support its defense and space programs, and ensure the readiness of our defense customers to perform their vital missions”.

As the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) requested a US$200bn bailout for worldwide airlines, Boeing and Airbus stated that they were in conversations with their government to receive help during this unprecedented crisis.