Covid-19: Thousands of construction sites close across Europe

Thousands of construction sites have closed across Europe, as governments tighten lockdown measures forcing developers to down tools.

Italy's latest social distancing decree, in force as of March 25, shutters all except 'essential' businesses, including the building trade. Only strategic construction projects, including hospitals and infrastructure, will be allowed to continue until 6 April at the earliest.

In Austria, Strabag froze work on over 1,000 sites after being unable to guarantee 1 metre safe distances for workers, with extensive lay-offs expected to follow. The contractor employs over 10,000 people in its home territory. In neighbouring Germany, where it has nearly triple the staff, site operations continue undiminished - for now.

France's largest contractor Vinci Group said it had shut numerous sites and implemented teleworking where possible. The construction and concessions group warned it would not meet its 2020 revenue targets, also due to shortfalls in its concessions business, including the 24 airports it operates worldwide. Vinci's French toll road business is also suffering, while French road builder Colas has temporarily downed tools.

Dutch construction services business Royal Bam Group has closed down over 100 construction sites in Belgium to remain in compliance with the latest emergency measures, while Swiss contrator Implenia said it would freeze select projects across Switzerland, Germany, France and Austria.

UK homebuilder Wimpey said it had paused building work in Spain and warned of 'reduced hours' for some UK operations. On Tuesday, London developer Galliard Homes decided to close all the company’s construction sites across London with immediate effect, with the sole exception of important safety works.

The latest quarantine restrictions in CEE are expected to impact sites imminently in Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and other territories. The high percentage of migrant labour in the industry, particularly involving Eastern European workers, is having a particular effect where borders have been closed. Russia closed its confines to foreigners on 18 March and other nations are likely to follow in limiting the movement of workers.

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