(Bloomberg) -- Chevron Corp. is demobilizing about two thirds of the workforce in its massive Tengiz oil project in Kazakhstan after a coronavirus outbreak in the region.

Almost 20,000 workers were sent home and were tested for the virus as they departed, Chief Executive Officer Mike Wirth told investors Wednesday in a virtual annual shareholders meeting. For the core, critical workers who remain at the remote site, housing quarters have been spread out while testing and requirements for personal protective equipment have been boosted.

“It’s a big project, a lot of people in a difficult and demanding location,” Wirth said. “It’s a big job, and I think they’re doing a fine job of dealing with a moving situation.”

The staff reduction is just the latest blow for the oil major that entered the country in the early 1990s. Chevron surprised analysts late last year after announcing a 25% cost hike for Tengiz. The project had nearly 30,000 workers two months ago, Wirth said.

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