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Amazon, Google Further Restrict Employee Travel Due to Coronavirus

“We can confirm that one employee from our Zurich office has been diagnosed with the coronavirus,” a Google spokesperson told CRN. “They were in the Zurich office for a limited time, before they had any symptoms.”

Amazon.com Inc. has instructed employees to defer all non-essential travel, including within the United States, due to the coronavirus, while Google also curtailed employee travel and confirmed an employee in its Zurich, Switzerland, office had contracted the disease.

“We can confirm that one employee from our Zurich office has been diagnosed with the coronavirus,” a Google spokesperson told CRN. “They were in the Zurich office for a limited time, before they had any symptoms. We have taken — and will continue to take — all necessary precautionary measures, following the advice of public health officials, as we prioritize everyone’s health and safety.”

Google’s Zurich office and all other Google offices remain open, and the company will continue to evaluate the situation as it evolves.

The main way the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low,” according to WHO. “However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.”

Google also confirmed that it was banning employee travel to Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea. In late January, Google suspended operations at its offices in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as the coronavirus spread across the region.

The restrictions come as WHO today increased the assessment of the risk of spread and impact of the coronavirus to “very high” at the global level.

The organization today reported at least 83,652 confirmed cases of people who’ve contracted the coronavirus globally, including 1,358 new cases in the last 24 hours and the virus’ expansion to Belarus, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand and Nigeria. The coronavirus now is confirmed in 51 countries in addition to China, where 78,961 cases and 2,791 deaths had been confirmed. There were a reported 4,691 cases confirmed outside of China and 67 deaths as of Friday.

In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has reported 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus out of 459 people tested as of Friday, in addition to 47 people with confirmed cases who were repatriated to the U.S. from Wuhan, China (three) and the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship (44) that was under quarantine in Japan.

The virus and fears of a pandemic have wreaked havoc on the financial markets, impacted tech companies’ outlooks due to supply chain disruptions and prompted the cancellation of tech conferences. It’s also prompted tech companies to pull out of attending conferences that remained scheduled.

Google has cancelled its Google News Initiative summit that was slated for April 22-23 at its California campus and was expected to draw a “couple of hundred” people from the news industry from around the globe.

"We regret that we have to cancel our global Google News Initiative summit, but the health and wellbeing of our guests is our number one priority,” Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, said in a statement.

Google did not respond to CRN enquiries about whether it was considering cancelling or postponing its Google Cloud Next ’20 conference slated for April 6-8 in San Francisco. The annual conference attracted more than 30,000 attendees last year.

Palo Alto-based Hewlett-Packard yesterday said it was postponing its annual partner conference, Reinvent 2020 – slated for March 24-26 in Anaheim, Calif. -- in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

Mobile World Congress 2020, which was scheduled for Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain, also was cancelled. Other tech conferences cancelled due to the coronavirus include the Facebook Global Marketing Summit in San Francisco and Facebook F8 in San Jose, Calif.

Amazon Travel Restrictions

All employees of Seattle-based Amazon were informed of the retail and tech giants’ travel restrictions Friday morning, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed.

“We're asking employees to defer non-essential travel during this time,” the spokesperson said.

Amazon has some 798,000 full- and part-time employees according to its fourth-quarter earnings results, released Jan. 30. The figure excludes contractors and temporary workers.

Amazon, in late January, had restricted business travel to and from China.

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