WORKERS at Ellesmere Port's Vauxhall plant have been put on furlough as the site remains temporarily shut due to the coronavirus crisis, the carmaker has confirmed.

The North Road factory, which employs more than 1,000 people, was closed on March 17 with a return to production "assessed on a week-by-week basis".

Bosses at the Ellesmere Port plant are still keen to build NHS ventilators to treat patients with coronavirus but say there have been no further developments since offering assistance more than two weeks ago.

The carmaker confirmed to The Standard that staff have been placed on furlough, which means they receive 80% of their salary through the government's job retention scheme.

A Vauxhall spokesperson said: "Ellesmere Port is currently closed and assessed on a week-by-week basis.

"Our offer of assistance (to build ventilators) is still with the authorities and we are open to any partnerships to assist."

At the end of last month Vauxhall's owners, Group PSA, said they were starting to put measures in place across its European sites for a "gradual and safe" return to work.

It said a timetable would be drawn up to restart operations, but no date was given for the reopening of the Ellesmere Port plant.

In a statement Group PSA said: "While Groupe PSA had announced the suspension of its industrial activities until March 27, 2020, a timetable for a gradual and safe resumption will be established within the framework of social dialogue, taking into account the context of the health crisis and the results of the audits of implementation of reinforced health measures adapted to each site.

"On the basis of the 'prepare, test, resume' principle, new dates will be set for European mechanical factories and assembly sites, which will also integrate the ability of suppliers to support these restarts."

Carlos Tavares, Chairman of Groupe PSA’s Managing Board, added: "We will not compromise on the health of our employees so that the industrial restart necessary for the sustainability of the company can be carried out under optimal conditions.

"I have every confidence in the ability of the employees of Groupe PSA to help get out of this crisis without fatality. Our fighting spirit and our collective mental strength are as many assets that we put at the service of our fellow citizens."

Meanwhile, Group PSA has announced today (April 6) a further €3 billion worth of loans to strengthen its financial position amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest syndicated loans come on top of an existing €3 billion worth of undrawn credit lines, making available to the company a total €6 billion.

Philippe de Rovira, Chief Financial Officer of Groupe PSA, said: "This operation reinforces our ability to face up this exceptional situation and prepare the future. It also proves the confidence of our partner banks in the financial strength and recognized resilience of Groupe PSA."