Elon Musk. Picture: REUTERS
Elon Musk. Picture: REUTERS

San Francisco — Authorities in California say Tesla’s only assembly plant in the US could open as early as next week, albeit with enhanced safety measures because of the Covid-19 pandemic, after a very public anti-lockdown tirade by Elon Musk with support from US President Donald Trump.

In a series of tweets overnight on Wednesday, authorities in Alameda County, which includes the city of Fremont, home to the plant, said they had met with Tesla representatives, reviewed the electric carmaker’s safety plans for the factory, and made some extra recommendations.

“If Tesla’s prevention and control plan includes these updates, and the public-health indicators remain stable or improve, we have agreed that Tesla can begin to augment their minimum business operations this week in preparation for possible reopening as soon as next week,” the county health agency said.

Musk said on Monday that the company was resuming production, defying authorities and escalating a feud over the Pacific state’s pandemic shutdown. “I will be on the line with everyone else,” Musk tweeted. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

Musk’s move comes amid rising disputes over the pace of easing the lockdowns imposed by states to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The new statement from the county said police in Fremont would be on hand to verify that Tesla is observing social-distancing and that other agreed safety measures for workers are being upheld.

Tesla did not immediately respond to the announcement.

Musk has been raging on Twitter for days about his unsuccessful efforts to restart production, claiming the ban violates “our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!”

The US administration is pushing a reopening of the world’s largest economy, battered by weeks of lockdown, even as the daily death toll has generally been rising by 1,000 to 2,500 in recent weeks.

Trump weighed in on Tuesday in support of Musk.

“California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!” Trump said in a tweet.

Over the weekend, Musk threatened to move Tesla’s headquarters and factory out of California as a result of the standoff.

AFP