The founder of Chinese tech giant Xiaomi has urged the country’s smartphone industry to return to work.

Analysts predict smartphone shipments within China will drop by around 40% in the first quarter as the coronavirus disrupts the country’s supply chain.

Numerous factories across China have suspended production as the country continues to cope with the outbreak.

Lei Jun, who is from the Hubei province where the virus originated, said he was concerned for his home region.

“I’m from Hubei and spent four years in Wuhan in college, so my feelings for Wuhan are quite deep,” said Lei, while donning a facemask at the launch of the company’s new flagship Mi 10 phone series.

Xiaomi was the world’s fourth-biggest smartphone maker in 2018, according to market research firm IDC – after Samsung, Apple and Huawei – and opened a second headquarters in Wuhan in December.

He added: “I believe Wuhan is a glorious city, and I believe even more that the brave and optimistic people of Wuhan can definitely fight this virus.”

The economic fallout from the outbreak of the virus, named Covid-19, is spreading far and wide, moving across China’s manufacturing sector, major airlines and global supply chains.

Although Chinese workers were due back at work this week after an extended New Year holiday, many factories and offices have remained closed.

Google temporarily closed its offices in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan amid the outbreak, and other tech giants, including Amazon and Microsoft, quickly followed suit.

It has led to some analysts estimating that global smartphone shipments could fall by as much as 10% this year, and cause a shortage of iPhones, and the new iPhone 11 in particular.

China’s President, Xi Jinping, was reported on Monday by media in the Far East to have pledged to prevent large-scale layoffs of workers in the wake of the virus’s continuing economic impact.

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