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Winnipeg businesses feeling economic impact of coronavirus: ‘It’s going to affect us for sure’

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Winnipeg businesses could soon start to feel the effects of city-wide lockdowns in China due to the coronavirus, Global's Marney Blunt reports – Feb 13, 2020

Winnipeg businesses could soon start to feel the effects of city-wide lockdowns in China due to the coronavirus.

The City of Wuhan in Hubein Province, ground zero for the outbreak, along with several neighbouring cities have been locked down for weeks, bringing factories to a standstill.

“It’s going to affect us for sure, in many ways,” says John Salgueiro, owner of JS Furniture.

“Pretty much in the furniture industry, most things come from China. Threads come from China, springs, just about 100 per cent of the springs in either mattresses or sofas come from China.”

Salgueiro says he has about 25 containers on order for his store from both China and Vietnam, but only four have been confirmed.

READ MORE: Coronavirus death toll rises to 908 in China, Japan cruise ship sees 66 new cases

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“I normally have a lot of containers coming, but now my list is getting smaller and smaller because they don’t know when the merchandise is going to actually leave China,” he said.

He says the delays could expand from weeks to months.

“We really don’t know. They’re talking to come back in March, before they ramp up production will be probably middle of March. New orders? You’re looking at [possible] July shipments.”

As for the product itself, Salgueiro says he has enough inventory to last the short-term, but extended delays could mean trouble.

“A little bit more [inventory] than normal because we do a lot of winter roads business, and we’re prepared for it,” Salgueiro says.

“Also the fact the U.S. put all these tariffs on China, we’ve been buying a lot of merchandise that was due to go to the U.S. and it’s been refused.”

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Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Monday the virus could cause a four-per cent dip in global economic output in 2020, with “significant” impacts felt in Canada.

READ MORE: Coronavirus will ‘undoubtedly’ hit Canadian and global economies, says Morneau

“There are impacts,” Morneau said. “There’s going to be impacts on tourism, on the oil sector, on supply chains, and we need to understand those.”

University of Manitoba economist John McCallum said the overall impact on the Canadian economy should be minimal, provided the situation doesn’t take a turn for the worse.

“[It will have] a modest impact on us as things stand now, but if this took a very bad turn for the worse and looked like it was going to persist through the spring and summer and so on, that would become much more serious,” McCallum said.

He said the coronavirus outbreak could cost China’s economy billions and slow growth by two per cent.

“We have trouble appreciating what happened in parts of China. It’s as if basically everything shut down in terms of business in cities that have several million people working in them.”

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