Mar 24, 2020 - Economy & Business

Freight disruptions significantly delay vital coronavirus supplies

A new shipment of facemasks arriving in Liege, Belgium, on March 23. Photo: Vincent Kalut / Photonews via Getty Images

The backup in global supply chains plus a manufacturing and transportation sector already weakened by the U.S.-China trade war are combining to slow the rate of goods deliveries to nearly double their normal times.

What's happening: "Freight carriers are struggling to deliver goods by land, sea or air as the coronavirus pandemic forces Western governments to impose lockdowns, threatening supplies of vital products including medicines into the most affected areas, such as Italy," Reuters reports.

  • "Problems ranging from finding enough truck drivers to restrictions on seafarers and a lack of air freight are hitting the smooth flow of goods, freight logistics operators say."
  • "Stockpiling and panic buying by consumers are also adding to strains."

The big picture: Air cargo shipments had been declining since early 2019, and 75% of U.S. companies surveyed by the Institute for Supply Management said two weeks ago their supply chains already had been upended, with most expecting disruptions to continue.

  • The coronavirus outbreak that moved from China at the beginning of the year to Europe and then the Americas has meant significant delays transporting key goods such as medicines and perishable foods.

What they're saying: "Supply chain disruption has moved rapidly from east to west," Mohammed Esa, chief commercial officer for Europe with global logistics group Agility, told Reuters.

  • "What you could normally move in two or three days is going to take twice as long — you have to still get it through the airport, you have put it on a truck and get it through borders."

What's next: Boeing announced a full work stoppage in Seattle and GE laid off employees making jet engines, per the Wall Street Journal, while major U.S. airlines are discussing putting a stop to all passenger flights.

Go deeper: The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it

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Coronavirus has disrupted supply chains for nearly 75% of U.S. companies

Employees produce medical masks at Madaran Medical Manufacturing Company in Robat Karim district of Tehran, Iran. Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused supply chain disruptions for nearly three-quarters of U.S. companies, and many are already pricing in revenue losses this year as a result, according to a special ISM survey.

What's happening: Data show global production out of China fell to an all-time low last month, with freight and shipping slowing dramatically as the virus has shuttered factories and container ports.

Workers press companies for protective measures

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Companies are scrambling to reorganize operations and add protections for employees after a surge of public protests by workers who are fearful of contracting the coronavirus on the job.

Why it matters: America is relying on grocery clerks, warehouse personnel and factory workers for food and other necessities. If they get sick, supply chains could break down, further threatening the teetering U.S. economy.

Go deeperArrowApr 4, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll passes 9,600

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 9,600 in the U.S. Sunday night, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day since April 1.

Why it matters: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday this upcoming week will be "the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health