Britain's oil and gas sector association OGUK on Thursday banned people from traveling to offshore installations such as platforms if they have traveled to certain countries affected by the coronavirus in the previous 14 days.
The ban comes after Equinor reported the oil industry's first coronavirus infection on an offshore installation on Wednesday, highlighting the challenge in preventing contamination for thousands of workers living in the close quarters on rigs and platforms.
"Industry policy is that personnel will not be permitted to travel offshore if they have traveled from or transited through affected countries ... on the UK government's list of affected areas," OGUK said.
These countries, so-called Category 1 and 2 areas, currently include Italy, Iran, China's worst-hit areas and a number of other Asian countries. The OGUK's health, safety and environment director Trevor Stapleton said that rescue helicopters are ready to bring individuals back onshore if lives are at risk.
Helicopters could also bring coronavirus test kits to offshore installations and back onshore, he said.
As for possible production shutdowns in the British North Sea, which produced about 1.7 million barrels per day of oil equivalent last year, Stapleton said it was up to the individual installation managers.
When asked about possible interruptions to maintenance, he said there are some problems already, with a lot of equipment sourced from Italy, but these are being looked at.
(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla Editing by David Evans and David Goodman)