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General Motors on Thursday said it was gradually restarting the transmission and engine lines at its Mexican facilities in Silao and Ramos Arizpe, while supplier Lear also geared up for production.

GM Mexico told Reuters assembly plants at Ramos Arizpe in the northern state of Coahuila, and Silao in the central state of Guanajuato, could restart operations on Friday (22 May) depending on suppliers, and that it was assessing when to reopen plants in the central state of San Luis Potosi, and in Toluca, near Mexico City.

The steps to restart production are welcome news for the North American auto sector, with supply lines highly interconnected among the United States, Mexico and Canada, the report noted.

Auto factories in Mexico have been idled for weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak which has infected 59,567 people and killed 6,510 in Mexico so far.

GM staff returning to work in Mexico must use personal protective equipment at all times, keep a "safe distance" of 1.5m (4.9ft) from each other, and have their temperatures checked when entering the plant, a message to workers showed.

The government said last week Mexico's automotive industry could exit the coronavirus lockdown before 1 June if firms had approved safety measures in place.

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By GlobalData

Auto parts makers that are crucial to the supply chains are also taking steps to reopen, such as Lear whose customers include Ford.

Some employees at Lear's Rio Bravo plant in Ciudad Juarez on Mexico's northern border were told on Thursday to return to work on Friday for activities including safety training, according to a message seen by Reuters.

Four workers at the plant, which supplies seat trim covers for Daimler's Mercedes-Benz and Ford Mustangs and Explorers, said they were told to return on Friday.

Lear said all facilities in Mexico were currently closed, and that it was implementing health and safety protocols in preparation for reopening.

One of 42 sites Lear operates across Mexico, the Rio Bravo plant employs about 3,000 people and saw a coronavirus outbreak that killed 18 workers, the company has said.

Mexico's government issued guidelines on Monday for restarting operations in carmaking, mining and construction even as coronavirus deaths hit new highs.

"The reopening is happening as the pandemic is hitting the country hard," said Mauricio Usabiaga, economic development minister for Guanajuato, the state where Silao is located.

"We have to be very careful, prudent and conscientious."