UK-based excavator maker JCB is shutting down production at its nine British manufacturing plants through the end of March because of the “unprecedented” global collapse in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm announced on March 18.

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No decision has been made about the following period. Shop-floor workers affected by the move will continue to be paid while many office staff will work from home, in line with government advice.

"These measures are unprecedented in the history of JCB but are absolutely necessary to protect the business,”"/said CEO Graeme Macdonald. "JCB is a global exporter and worldwide demand for our products has dropped sharply as customers cancel orders and defer deliveries."

He noted that "with countries like France, Spain and Italy going into lock down, those key markets for construction equipment disappear overnight," adding that "In light of this fast-changing situation, we need to re-plan our production and, as a result, manufacturing at all UK factories will cease for the rest of this week and all of next week."

The firm is weighing a UK government request to manufacture ventilators to ease a national shortage in the wake of the virus spread, says the Financial Times.

The firm noted that its China-based plant in Pudong, near Shanghai, now is fully operational after stopping production last month as that country's COVID-19 epidemic spread.

The shutdown follows by just months the firm's announcement of revenue, profit and sales increases for last year, with a 27% increase in machine sales beating the industry average of 18%. JCB announced last September that 2018 revenue rose 22% to £4.1 billion