Volkswagen said "a few" components units, which have continued operation "to some extent", will extend their operations to safeguard the supply of parts to plants in China from the Tuesday after Easter.

This will affect 1,700 employees at the Brunswick, Kassel, Salzgitter, Chemnitz and Hanover plants.

Production at the components and vehicle plants continues to be suspended with a further review expected after Easter.

Production processes are being optimised and consistent minimum distances and strict hygiene standards will apply in all areas. Where minimum distances of 1.5m are not possible, all employees will receive appropriate protective equipment.

Ralf Brandstaetter, chief operation officer of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, said: "The protection and health of our workforce take priority. Nothing is more important for us. Our employees can rely on us doing everything possible to ensure that they can work safely. This is why we have set clear standards together with the general works council and defined a timetable for the various phases in the return to normal operation."

Resumption of production will be accompanied by a comprehensive package of measures in several phases. In phase one, maximum precautions will apply and these will gradually be reduced until normal operation is reached in phase four. The transitions will be agreed between the company and the council.

The package of measures includes specific rules on distances and hygiene, an obligation to wear mouth and nose protection in areas, where minimum distances of 1.5 meters are not possible, harmonised cleaning intervals, the separation of shifts in order to avoid contacts and a call on employees to measure their temperature under their own responsibility before starting work each day.

In phase one, production will be slower than normal. In addition to changes in procedures, which require more time, work cycles will be optimised to ensure that distances are maintained and contacts are minimised.

Administration and technical employees engaged in mobile working will work from home as much as possible until further notice.