THE spread of the coronavirus is “beginning” to have an impact on business in Dorset – and firms are being urged to prepare for a wider outbreak.

One businessman has warned that smaller firms could be the hardest hit as they compete with larger companies for component parts from Asia.

Apple was one of the first big manufacturers to warn of the impact of the virus, revealing that it would not meet its financial targets for the second quarter because production of iPhones in China had been affected.

Earlier this week, Dorset-based aerospace engineering company Meggitt said the virus was one factor which would hit revenue this year.

Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “There is no doubt that Coronavirus is spreading quickly. We are beginning to see an impact on Dorset businesses. Given the emerging concerns, we’d advise businesses to start to consider any potential issues that may arise and implement any required action.

“Businesses may need to manage the potential economic effect of the disease, including shipping restrictions, increased freight costs, supply chain disruption, staff shortages and travel restrictions.

“Businesses which may be potentially affected include those who rely on products from infected areas, have operations in such areas or have staff travelling overseas who may be subject to restrictions or quarantine.

“Other businesses may face longer-term cash-flow problems if trade is affected or logistical issues if a pandemic takes hold and is protracted. School closures would also have a detrimental impact on business.

“Businesses are urged to stay vigilant, be proactive with contingency planning and emergency response protocols, and keep up to date on the latest government guidance.”

Michael Owen, managing director of Bournemouth-based IT and cloud services business Cirro Solutions, said: “On the Nuffield Industrial Estate, there are engineers and manufacturers there that are buying components from Asia. They’re going to experience the same impact as Apple in terms of getting hold of component parts.”

He said a shortage of silicon could be a problem. “Whether it’s modular equipment or electric vehicles to mobile phones, pretty much everything has silicon in it. Most of the components are made in Asia and specifically in China. Therefore, where you get a major outbreak, there isn’t much you can do in terms of diversifying a supply chain to a point where you’re OK,” he added.

“Nobody really knows what the impact is going to be and nobody really planned for it.

“What we can see is the price point of components going up. Nobody knows how high.”

He said small business could be worst hit because big companies would have first call on those components that are produced.