German chemicals reject calls to shut plants as pandemic hits hard

Author: Stefan Baumgarten

2021/01/15

LONDON (ICIS)--Germany’s top chemical industry trade groups are rejecting calls to shut down plants as part of the country’s “hard lockdown” to contain the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“A shutdown would be counter-productive, in all respects”, chemical producers group VCI and employers group BAVC said in a joint statement on Friday.

The chemical-pharmaceutical industry makes “key contributions” to containing the pandemic, the trade groups said,  in vaccine production, the manufacture of essential medicines or as the most important upstream supplier for diagnostics, medical, and laboratory equipment manufacturers.

As such, a shutdown would “considerably weaken” the fight against the coronavirus.

Furthermore, the closure of companies or plants could not be justified on an economic or commercial basis.

“Without chemical supplies, the entire industry and thus almost 30% of our economy would stand still”, they said.

Some German politicians have called for companies to increase “working from home”, and they urged to consider the closure of industrial plants in order to contain the virus.

“Those who want to switch off the economy in the middle of the toughest crisis of the last decades have to explain how we can earn the money to finance all the numerous aid measures to combat the crisis,” said BAVC director general Klaus-Peter Stiller.

“The companies in our industry have made their operations a safe place to work during in the pandemic. We have further increased and continuously optimised our already high standards of health protection."

However, it was just not possible to carry out chemical and other manufacturing through working from home, he said.

The country's chemicals industry is the largest in Europe, with 2020 sales at €186.4bn, down 6% year on year; it employs around 465,000 people.

Meanwhile, the country’s Robert Koch health institute on Friday reported 22,368 new infections over the last 24 hours alone, for a total of 2m infections since the virus’ first wave hit earlier this year.

Germany is currently at the peak of the pandemic (see bottom map for infection rates across Europe).

So far, 44,994 people die from the virus in Germany.

EU INVESTION RATES
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers 50 cases per 100,000 residents a safe, manageable level; 250/100,000 is high risk of health services being overwhelmed.

In most EU countries, current levels are high risk.

Click on image to enlarge

Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Front page picture: The River Rhine by BASF's flagship facilities in Ludwigshafen
Source: Ronald Wittek/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock