Factories across China remain closed in an attempt by firms and authorities to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

That is increasingly having an impact on companies in other countries, including Nissan, which has closed one of its Japanese plants because it cannot get parts from China. 

That may lead firms here to wonder what impact the virus' ripple effect will have on them. 

According to John Whelan, managing partner of international trade consultancy Linkage Partnership, there is more on the line than was the case even a few years ago.

"Back in 2003 when the SARS epidemic hit - and it was serious at the time - our trade with China was something like €500m in terms of exports," he said. 

"Last year we had over €8 billion in exports, so it's a much bigger market for us - it's one of our top markets now. So when the Chinese market starts to wobble under the current virus, it has quite severe impacts on a number of sectors," he stressed. 

Computer and communications firms are perhaps facing the worst hit - as are many food businesses, given China's significance to dairy and pork exporters in particular. 

According to Mr Whelan, one of the biggest challenges at present is simply getting the products into China itself - as backlogs grow around the country's ports. 

"We're shipping the products out but they can't get into the ports," he said.  

"We've just been advised that Lufthansa and British Airways have stopped their flights in - and while that will stop the potential for infected people getting into Europe, pharmaceuticals are typically air-freighted in, seafood is typically air-freighted in and so the whole scene is getting clogged up now."

Exporters now have to decide how much product they push down the line, which may well be left sitting at airports and seaports, and how will they respond when the virus is eventually brought under control.

The flip-side of this trade disruption is that Irish firms reliant on Chinese goods and components will also see their supply chains disrupted.

"Last year we imported about €4 billion in from China, and that's an enormous amount coming into the country," Mr Whelan said. 

"That's a wide spread of technical components to keep factories going as well as certain pharmaceutical products that we also need ingredients going into," he added. 

"Everybody has moved over the last decade or so to 'just in time' format, which meant that there was very little in the pipeline, which means this hit the production-line very quickly and companies can very rapidly run out of product," he explained.

That means some firms may quickly be trying to figure out what to do with employees, he said, while retailers may also be hit by shortages of consumer-end products in the near future. 

"A lot of the final goods - the pots, pans, electrical goods and so on that they import and sell, they just won't be able to get their hands on," he said. "So for the smaller guys it's also a major issue," he added.