which was heavily impacted by the lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, demand and activity levels have since gradually improved, as lockdowns eased through 2Q 2020 and into 3Q 2020, particularly with automotive and manufacturing restarts. As a result, the Company resumed some steel-making capacity in France, Spain and Germany, with some of the restarts required to ensure continuity of supply to customers during the planned major reline of a blast furnace at Gent, Belgium that began late August 2020. Nevertheless, demand has not yet recovered to pre-crisis levels and production in 3Q 2020 was 24.2% lower as compared to 10.4 million tonne in 3Q 2019.
Steel shipments in 3Q 2020 improved by 20.1% to 8.2 million tonne as compared to 6.8 million tonne in 2Q 2020 primarily driven by higher flat steel shipments (+29.6%). Steel shipments were 15.6% lower in 3Q 2020 as compared to 9.7 million tonne in 3Q 2019 (in both flat and long products) primarily due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sales in 3Q 2020 were USD 7.0 billion, 20.9% higher as compared to USD 5.8 billion in 2Q 2020, primarily due to higher shipment volumes and an improved sales mix