Airbus has been forced to send around 500 of its workers home after more than 20 employees tested positive for COVID-19 at its Hamburg-Finkenwerder plant. The plant employs around 12,000 workers, and is a key production site for the A320 family of aircraft.
21 employees test positive
European planemaker Airbus has had to place around 500 of its staff in quarantine following an outbreak of COVID at its factory in Hamburg. According to Reuters, 21 staff tested positive for the virus over the weekend, forcing Airbus to ask people to stay at home as a precautionary measure.
Airbus is investigating the source of this outbreak, and will consider whether additional health and safety measures are required at the plant. A spokesperson told Business Live that,
“The Health & Safety of our people, while maintaining business continuity, is our first and overriding priority. The appropriate measures, such as immediate series testing and quarantine, were initiated immediately as per established protocol in cooperation with the authorities.
“These are mandatory quarantine measures on the part of the authorities as well as on top precautionary, voluntary domestic isolation for those employees which entered the affected production area. Effects on production at the site are being examined.
“The cause of the cases is still under investigation. We are fully supporting the authorities. At this stage, we should not speculate on the findings.”
It’s not clear yet whether the Airbus employees contracted one of the new, more transmissible variants of COVID-19. Airbus shut down its factories early into the COVID crisis in order to implement health and safety measures. Since then, it has facilitated the separation of teams, mandated mask-wearing, and has ensured social distancing wherever possible.
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Impact on production
Airbus’ Hamburg site is at the Finkenwerder Airport and employs around 12,000 people in total. It manufactures and equips fuselage sections for Airbus widebody aircraft, including the A330 and A350. It used to assemble fuselage sections for the A380 also. Most importantly, the site is a final assembly line for the popular A320 family of aircraft. It is also the home of the management of the entire A320 program.
Since 2018, the site has accommodated four final assembly lines for the A320 family, including some of the most advanced robotics and automation technologies. According to Airbus, the Hamburg-Finkenwerder industrial facility is responsible for more than half of Airbus’ annual A320 Family output.
Usually, a disruption of this scale would significantly affect the production rate of the narrowbody aircraft. However, due to the global health crisis, Airbus had already trimmed production targets from an expected 60 per month to just 40. Last week, the planemaker confirmed it would begin to ramp up this rate to 43, but that wasn’t due to happen until later in the year.
Although any impact such as this will be unwelcome, it’s unlikely to significantly affect aircraft deliveries, thanks to the flex already built into the production schedule.