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    Belgian companies take hit amid coronavirus outbreak

    With the outbreak of the new coronavirus impacting shipping and rail transport, Belgian companies say they are facing rising air transport costs. © Belga

    The outbreak of the new coronavirus which has infected thousands and put China on lockdown has also started taking a toll on Belgium’s economy, with a number of tech firms declaring an impact to their operations.

    A new survey conducted by Agoria, a technology company umbrella association, showed that one in two companies said they were already being impacted by the epidemic.

    “Half of the respondents affirm facing difficulties in production, be it here in Belgium or in China,” Agoria representative Kevin Verbelen told said, according to 7sur7.

    “Our members told us that certain Chinese ships are no longer arriving at Belgian ports and that cargo trains were being cancelled,” Verbelen said, in reference to the impacts on rail traffic of a decision by Russia shut its border with China at the end of January.

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    “An additional 75% of respondents also forecast that they will continue encountering difficulties in the coming months,” he added, adding that respondents also reported rising prices on cargo flights.

    Members of the umbrella association include telecom companies Proximus and Siemens, as well as carmaker Volvo Car Ghent, which last year started sending vehicles to China.

    The survey was completed by 63 members of the association, which together represent some 19,000 jobs in Belgium.

    The results of the survey come as the outbreak of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread, with the global death toll surging past 2,000, six of them outside China, including the death of an elderly Chinese tourist in France last week.

    In France, tech and trading companies also reported a slowdown and production delays as a result of the outbreak.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times