By Sudarshan Varadhan and Aditi Shah
CHENNAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Workers at two of India’s biggest carmakers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus days after restarting operations, exposing the risks companies and the government face in kickstarting the economy.
Three employees at Hyundai Motor Co’s Indian plant have tested positive for the virus, the South Korean automaker said on Sunday.
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, which sells one in every two cars in the country, said late on Saturday one employee at its plant in the northern city of Manesar had tested positive and there was the possibility of a second case.
The cases show the risks and challenges Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government faces in restarting automobile production in an effort to revive the economy after a near two-month lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Maruti, majority owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp, said there was no impact on business operations. The carmaker restarted work at its Manesar plant earlier in May.
Hyundai, which restarted operations at its plant on the outskirts of the southern city of Chennai on May 8, said the three employees started showing mild symptoms of coughs and colds in the first week.
“All the necessary measures are being taken for contact tracing, self-isolation and complete sanitation,” Hyundai’s India spokesman said in a statement.
Test results of sixteen more workers who possibly came into contact with the infected employees are expected over the next two days, a senior government official told Reuters.
“The state’s policy is to not let the industry stall,” said P Ponniah, the top bureaucrat in the Kancheepuram district where Hyundai’s plant is located.
He said parts of the plant visited by the employees would be sanitised, a process likely to take 3-4 days during which time staff would be barred from those areas.
Hyundai’s employees union has written to management and the Tamil Nadu state government, urging the company to immediately test all workers at its own expense, president E Muthukumar told Reuters.
(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan in Chennai and Aditi Shah in New Delhi; Editing by Mark Potter)