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Corona beer producer halts brewing over virus

Since the start of the virus crisis, Corona beer has been the punchline of some questionable jokes and memes

Two Mexican brewers, including the producers of Corona beer, have said they are reducing production because of the health emergency in the country over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grupo Modelo -- whose brands include Pacifico and Modelo as well as Corona -- said the measure was in line with the Mexican government's order to suspend all non-essential activities until April 30 to slow the spread of coronavirus.

"We are in the process of lowering production at our plants to the bare minimum," the company said in a statement on Thursday, adding it would complete the suspension in the following days.

Dutch-Mexican brewer Heineken Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma -- which makes the Tecate and Dos Equis brands -- likewise said Friday it was "executing a plan to reduce our operations... safeguarding care for the environment and with the sole objective of avoiding irreversible effects that could make it impossible to reactivate our economic activity."

Mexico's government has said that only key sectors such as agribusiness will be able to continue to function under current restrictions.

Grupo Modelo said it was ready to operate with 75 percent of its staff working remotely to guarantee the supply of beer, if the government agreed.

On Wednesday, the northern state of Nuevo Leon, where Heineken's Mexican operations are based, said it would stop the production and distribution of beer, which led to panic buying.

"These times demand a collective effort to confront this situation," said Heineken.

Since the start of the virus crisis, Corona beer has been the punchline of jokes and memes, and an online rumour said sales in the US dropped by around 40 percent after the outbreak.

However, in late February, Constellation Brands, which owns the Corona label, denied the rumour and said sales had stayed strong in the US even as the virus has spread internationally.

Mexico has so far registered over 1,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 50 deaths.