Electronics giant Foxconn, maker of the Apple iPhone, has taken the unusual step of switching to production of surgical masks.
The firm is also pushing to be allowed to reopen plants in China on Monday, which have been closed due to the coronavirus.
The outbreak has seen demand for masks soar and caused a shortage of supplies around the world.
Foxconn aims to produce two million masks a day by the end of the month.
The company said it had already started test production of the masks at its flagship manufacturing plant in Shenzhen in southern China.
In a post on the social media platform WeChat, the company said the masks would in the first instance be to protect its workers from infection, something that the firm believes: “is not just Foxconn’s biggest corporate responsibility, but also our social responsibility.”
Once full production had started it would start providing masks to people outside the company, it added.
The firm also said that it would use a new generation of infrared temperature measurement equipment at its facilities to help detect any potential coronavirus infections in its workforce.
Like other companies, Foxconn responded to the outbreak by closing most of its operations during the Lunar New Year break. In previous years it had kept its factories running during the holiday. It is now seeking permission from the authorities to restart work at the closed plants.
Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics manufacturer and as well as the iPhone, produces the iPad, Amazon’s Kindle, and PlayStations.
The announcement came as concerns grow that factory closures and travel restrictions across China will have a major impact on the supply of goods around the world.
Some analysts have estimated that global smartphone shipments could fall by as much as 10% this year, and cause a shortage of iPhones, especially the new iPhone 11.
US car maker General Motors has also joined efforts to resolve the surgical mask shortage.
Its Chinese joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling has announced that it will set up 14 production lines with the goal of making 1.7 million masks a day.