How is coronavirus affecting our tech and business sectors?

  • With 15 cases of coronavirus being confirmed in England as of this morning (27 Feb), we take a look at how the medically coined COVID-19 virus is affecting the UK and Ireland’s tech and business sectors.

    Roger Vance is managing director of Ad-Vance Engineering, a company that manufactures injection tool moulds.

    Based in Northern Ireland, Vance has urged the UK’s manufacturing sector to re-think the long-term benefits of ‘local sourcing’.

    This comes after a sudden spike in demand for injection moulding tools from UK-based businesses including the automotive, medical device and pharmaceutical industries, driven by the coronavirus’ increased outbreaks.

    There have also been recent reports surrounding reduced production levels at digger manufacturer JCB’s UK factories due to component shortages from Chinese suppliers.

    "Over 50% UK tool manufacturing is sourced from China"

    Vance called for a need to “reduce over-reliance on overseas sourcing” and added that “with over 50% of UK tool manufacturing currently being sourced from China, the impact on our entire manufacturing sector, and wider economy, could be disastrous.”

    He added: “The Chinese market has been steadily winning business from the UK since 2000, primarily based on the promise of reduced costs. Over the years this has resulted in the closure of many local tool manufacturers who simply could not compete.

    “Whist it is disappointing that it has taken a global threat such as Coronavirus to highlight the benefits of re-shoring, I would urge the manufacturing sector to seize this opportunity to re-consider its supply base.”

    Ad-Vance Engineering's Robert Vance

    As China is where a large multitude of tech companies have their products manufactured and is the origin country of the virus, global tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Mastercard have all reported expected revenue cuts.

    The latter cited “the impact of the coronavirus on cross-border travel and commerce” as the cause of its suspected financial losses, the Financial Times reported.

    Apple, which had initially expected its sales for this quarter to be “robust” said in a statement that its supply of smartphones would be hampered because production was ramping up more slowly than expected as China reopened its factories.

    RELATED: Mobile World Congress 2020 is cancelled due to coronavirus outbreak

    The iPhone manufacturer is not only heavily reliant on its Chinese factories, but its Chinese consumers.

    In recent years the country – which holds a population of almost 1.5bn - has been the third largest consumer of iPhones in terms of Apple’s regional sales.

    However China has been using tech to help combat and contain the virus. In Bejing, one LinkedIn user Ping Liu described how on her way to work her temperature was checked by officials on the street three times.

    By scanning a QR code, their tech could identify whether an individual had travelled within the last 14 days.

    She said: “It seems to me that the epidemic situation in China is getting better and better but worse in the world” and added that China’s precautionary procedures are to protect wider society and not just its country.


    Multiple tech events round the globe have also been cancelled.

    Software company Workday Inc. just yesterday pulled the plug on an internal sales conference in Florida which was set for next week and was expected to draw more than 3,000 people.

    Facebook abandoned a global marketing event in San Francisco earlier this month, which was again scheduled for next week.

    The global monumental Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona was additionally scrapped.

    How is Northern Ireland coping with the coronavirus?

    Of the 15 confirmed coronavirus cases in England, they all involved infection abroad.

    School children and teachers from three schools in Northern Ireland were sent home from their schools last week after coming back from trips to Italy, where multiple areas have been quarantined due to the virus outbreak.

    The Public Health Agency (PHA) declared yesterday (26 Feb) that of the total 52 people tested in NI for coronavirus, all results came back negative.

    The outbreak within Italy is affecting a vast area of sectors within all of Ireland, including the sporting world.

    The Ireland boxing squad have returned home from their pre-Olympic qualifiers training camp in the remote town of Assisi as a precaution, and the Ireland v Italy Six Nations rugby game has been postponed over the concerns.

    So far it seems then, that containment seems to be working here, but “the government has said the UK is prepared for all eventualities” according to the BBC.

    Although there are no certain cases of the virus within NI, it is apparent that it is affecting the country in different ways. 

    Do you work in tech in NI and have you been affected by the coronavirus in any way? E-mail us your story

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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