Buffett-backed Chinese EV maker BYD says making 5 million masks daily to fight virus

Volunteers wearing face masks stand next to vegetables to be delivered to residents of a residential area in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD 002594.SZ said on Friday it is making 5 million masks a day to fight the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 3,200 people in China.

The Shenzhen-based automaker, which is backed by U.S. investor Warren Buffett, said in a statement it started work on building a new mask production line in late January. BYD also produces around 300,000 bottles of hand sanitizers a day, it said.

BYD, which also produces EV batteries, said it will give masks to its workers to ensure normal production and will supply the rest to people in Hubei, the epicenter of the coronavirus, and to hospitals and public transport.

More than 134,500 people have been infected globally by the coronavirus and over 4,900 have died, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements. The total number of cases in mainland China is 80,813.

As factories in China, the world's No.2 economy, start to resume work, a number of Chinese manufacturers, including a subsidiary of Apple Inc AAPL.O partner Foxconn 2317.TW, have refitted production lines to make masks and medical clothing to meet surging demand.

SGMW, a Guangxi-based joint venture of General Motors GM.N, SAIC Motor 600104.SS and a local partner, is also making around 2 million masks a day.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman