Tesla's main factory in California is on a three-week lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tesla Model 3 car

Tesla Model 3 car

The decision to temporarily close the factory comes as a major blow to Tesla's chief executive Elon Musk, who had hoped to continue manufacturing and delivering cars as normal, despite the global health crisis.

Tesla has been planning to increase production of the Model Y electric vehicle, and Musk had previously written to his employees, telling them that work at the Fremont plant - which employs more than 10,000 workers - would continue as usual.

Musk - who added that employees should not feel obligated to come in to work - wrote in an email: "My frank opinion remains that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself."

Musk has also suggested similar things on Twitter.

He recently wrote on the micro-blogging platform: "danger of panic still far exceeds danger of corona imo. If we over-allocate medical resources to corona, it will come at expense of treating other illnesses. (sic)"

Previously, Tesla was forced to close its Shanghai plant for 10 weeks, when the virus was causing chaos in China.