Twitter, Amazon, Nike and more take emergency coronavirus precautions

Oscar Williams-GrutSenior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Yahoo Finance UK
Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, US. The office has been closed for deep cleaning after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. (Natalie Behring/Getty Images)
Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, US. The office has been closed for deep cleaning after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. (Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

Major corporations around the world are putting in place extraordinary measures to try and limit the spread of novel coronavirus.

Travel bans and remote working policies have been introduced in recent days and offices have been closed, as companies to try and protect employees from COVID-19. Twitter (TWTR), Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG), Goldman Sachs (GS), and Nike (NKE) are among the global businesses that have introduced extra measures.

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The precautions come as infection numbers continue to rise and staff at Amazon, Google, and Nike tested positive for COVID-19.

Travel bans to Italy, South Korea, China

Amazon announced on Monday that two employees in Italy had tested positive for the disease.

“We’re supporting the affected employees who were in Milan and are now in quarantine,” a spokesperson for Amazon told Yahoo Finance UK.

A Google staffer at the tech giant’s Zurich office has also reportedly tested positive for the COVID-19 disease, according to Business Insider, and a Nike employee in Europe has contracted COVID-19.

Additional measures have been introduced by each company in response.

Staff at Amazon have been told not to travel domestically or internationally until further notice and job interviews at Amazon are also being changed from face-to-face to video conferences. A spokesperson declined to comment on the measures.

Google is also restricting staff travel to Iran, parts of Italy, South Korea, and Japan. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nike has closed both its Oregon headquarters and its European headquarters in Amsterdam for deep cleaning. A spokesperson said the deep cleaning was “out of an abundance of caution”. A coronavirus case has been recorded in a city near Nike’s Beaverton, Oregon, headquarters.

Travel restrictions have been introduced at Facebook. (Jeff Chiu/AP)
Travel restrictions have been introduced at Facebook. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Even companies so far untouched by infections are taking precautions. Twitter said in a blog on Sunday it was “suspending all non-critical business travel and events” as part of efforts to ensure “the health and safety of our employees and partners is not compromised.”

Travel restrictions to Italy, South Korea, and China are in place at Facebook (FB) and the company last week cancelled its F8 developer conference.

“Our priority is the health and safety of our teams,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We continue to monitor the situation and update our guidance to employees.”

Read more: Virus 'biggest threat to global economy since financial crisis'

Fastly (FSLY), a NYSE-listed cloud computing business, said in a blog on Sunday it was closing all offices in favour of remote working, banning all non-essential travel, cancelling sponsored events, and discouraging staff from attending other industry events.

“Given that the situation related to COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, we believe an abundance of caution is prudent,” Fastly chief executive Joshua Bixby wrote.

Goldman Sachs told staff on Saturday it was banning all “non-essential” travel and putting in place specific restrictions on travel to China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, according to a memo seen by Yahoo Finance UK. Staff who have recently visited China and South Korea have also been told to self-isolate away from the office for two weeks.

“We are closely monitoring new developments regarding COVID-19 and calibrating the firm’s global response on a daily basis,” the bank wrote in the memo to staff.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Emergency plans at banks

Big banks are also going over emergency plans to ensure they can continue to operate if conditions worsen.

Regulations require banks to have continuity plans in place to ensure they can keep operating smoothly in the event of disruption such as terrorist attacks or earthquakes. Banks are now reviewing these plans in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

A person familiar with preparation work at a major US bank said options being considered included working from home, transferring staff to back-up offices, or even sending staff to offices in other cities.

Another person familiar with preparation work at a British bank said teams could be split across two offices to limit infection risks. Open trading floors, which can house thousands of workers, are seen as potentially high-risk for the spread of coronavirus.

Staff at several major banks are being encouraged to check their connections to work systems from home in the event that offices are shut down.

Read more: Worldwide death toll from coronavirus passes 3,000

Last week US oil giant Chevron, advertising agency OMD, and law firm Baker McKenzie all sent home London staff as a precaution after employees reported flu-like symptoms. The epidemic has also led to the cancellation of major industry events such as Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and the Geneva Motor Show.

The extra precautions come as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread globally. The number of new cases rose by 2,358 on Sunday, almost double the average recorded over the previous five days.

There have now been just over 89,000 cases recorded worldwide and over 3,000 people have died from COVID-19. The World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its coronavirus threat assessment level to “very high” on Friday and the first two deaths in the US were recorded over the weekend.

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