Toyota Motor on Friday said it was halting production at five plants in Japan in response to a sharp fall in overseas demand due to the global COVID19 coronavirus pandemic.

The shutdown affects seven production lines, with operations to be suspended for up to two weeks as the company looks to reduce output by 36,000 units. Suppliers are also expected to follow Toyota’s lead in cutting output.

Toyota has 18 vehicle assembly plants in Japan, including facilities operated by affiliated manufacturers. The automaker confirmed production at its Miyata plant in Fukuoka Prefecture had been suspended for the longest period, until 15 April.

All operations at Tsutsumi and Tahara in Aichi Prefecture have been shut down, but for shorter periods, while the Takaoka facility and a Hino-operated plant in Hamura will be partially shut down.

During the suspension affected workers at the five plants will either take paid annual leave or be assigned other work, including tasks designed to enhance future productivity.

Last week Toyota also confirmed a full-time production line worker at the Motomachi Plant in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, had tested positive for COVID19.

Nissan last week announced the suspension of three plants in Japan for various periods in April due to falling demand at home and abroad.

Toyota, along with other major Japanese vehicle manufacturers including Nissan and Honda, had been forced to halt production in the last month in key regional markets around the world, including in North America and Europe, in response to plunging demand as global economic activity continued to fall sharply. 

In March Toyota Motor asked two leading Japanese banks for an additional line of credit totaling JPY1trn (US$9.2bn) to strengthen its cash position in preparation for any further escalation in the global COVID19 virus epidemic.