Many of you have privately text or email me to check if I am safe during this coronavirus outbreak. I have just returned from Singapore after the Chinese New Year celebration with our families and friends.
It does put a slight damper on the festive season with people you met either masked up or talking about the latest death count or the infected ones. However, this doesn’t mean we forget those who put themselves at risk to save and serve others.
I love the saying of “Firefighters are heroes. They run into a burning building when everyone else is running away from it. This goes the same with doctors and nurses. When everyone is shunning the sick and diseased, they are the ones who care.
Besides the medical community, there are plenty of others who put themselves at risk. Flight attendants and pilots who are cooped up in the small confined plane for hours, custom officers who sees thousands of travellers per day, and retail frontliners who have to serve customers regardless they looked sick.
Several companies with branches in China and other affected countries are now enacting preventive measures to ensure that their employees are safe from Coronavirus. And I want to highlight some of these companies who do right by their employees during this time of crisis.
What is the Coronavirus or Covid-19?
The coronavirus or now called Covid-19 is a newly discovered type of coronavirus – novel coronavirus.
Similar to other coronaviruses, the novel coronavirus came from animals. So far, it is still uncertain which animal has triggered the virus, but studies all point out that the virus started spreading from a seafood wholesale market in Wuhan.
Since it was discovered, the virus already killed 100 people, infected 7,500 people in China and spread to other parts of the globe. Those who have been affected by the virus contract pneumonia and unlike regular pneumonia, antibiotics do not work for people with the coronavirus.
Most of those who have been confirmed to have the virus has traveled in mainland China, specifically to Wuhan. Some even visited the seafood market in question during their trips.
What are companies doing right now?
Companies with an international presence in China and countries with confirmed cases have already issued several measures to protect their workers.
Here below are some measures of what has been done so far by these companies:
Amazon has announced that it is restricting any business travel in and out of China until there are changes.
For their employees in China, the company said they can work from home for a week or two before they travel back to their offices in affected outbreak areas.
In his statement before analysts on Tuesday, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said that employee travel to China is restricted with “business-critical travel” allowed in limited numbers.
Deep-cleaning is also done to all Apple stores worldwide, as well as regular temperature checks for their staff. Since the coronavirus outbreak, they closed down three stores in mainland China.
Bloomberg reported that Facebook employees in China are told to work from home until the coronavirus outbreak is contained.
Any employee who traveled to China is asked to work from home for a short period of time as a precautionary measure. All non-essential travel to China is also canceled for all Facebook employees.
For Google, it has closed down its stores and offices in China and postponed all business travel. Employees in China or those with family coming home from China are asked to work from home for 14 days.
According to Forbes, the company ordered that employees in China work from home in the meantime and cancel any business travel in and out of the country.
In an announcement on Thursday, any host and guests affected by the coronavirus outbreak can cancel their bookings for free.
Shanghai Disneyland Resort
Shanghai Disneyland Resort and its hotels are also closed temporarily with refunds available for guests.
Guests are temperature screened before they can enter the casino. Staff members are also asked to wear respiratory masks for extra protection.
Yum China, owners of the KFC franchise in China, said that since January 24, certain KFC Wuhan branches have been temporarily closed due to this coronavirus outbreak.
They are also enforcing preventative measures to protect both employees and customers alike in all their other restaurants in China.
Yum China also adds that some Pizza Hut locations around Wuhan have been shut down and will remain closed indefinitely.
In their Weibo account, Starbucks confirms that they closed down all their stores in Hubei province, including the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai. They are also in close contact with local health officials to protect their customers and partners against the spread of coronavirus.
On Friday, McDonald’s said that they are canceling all operations indefinitely in five cities, namely Xiantao, Ezhou, Qianjiang, Wuhan and Huanggang. Crews will be provided with masks across their stores in China and diners will be given free hand sanitizers.
All Wuhan branches of Dairy Queen are closed since January 22.
Five Gap stores have been closed in China since the outbreak. They have also temporarily closed down all three Old Navy branches in China.
They pledged to donate 1.5 million euros worth of financial aid and medicine to everyone affected by the virus outbreak. A majority of this donation will be used to assist medical staff in getting protective clothing.
All business travel going to Wuhan are now suspended. For employees who visited Wuhan, they are required to work from home for a two-week period before they can return to work in the office.
Chinese New Year breaks for its Hong Kong and Macau staff have been extended to January 31. The company also said employees can opt to work from home.
Employee travel to China is now banned for all Shiseido employees.
Carnival Corp and Royal Carribean Cruises Ltd.
Nine cruises departing China from January 25 to February 4 are suspended until further notice.
Royal Carribean also suspended their January 27 and 31 trips. Refunds will be provided to customers who are affected by these suspensions.
Fast Retailing Co
Uniqlo temporarily closed down 50 of their stores in China until further notice.
Ryohin Keikaku Co
Muji branches in Wuhan have been closed down temporarily.
The supermarket brand from Japan closed down three Aeon Malls in Wuhan. However, their five supermarket stores are still open on a limited capacity to sell food and other key goods to citizens.
Nitori Holdings Co
Seven stores of the company in Wuhan have been closed temporarily. Their Shanghai and Suzhou branches now have shorter work hours.
Movie releases in all Chinese theaters will be postponed indefinitely despite the losses it will bring to the company.
They will be repatriating their employees and their family members in a Japanese government-chartered flight. Work from home will be given to employees in Japan after a case was confirmed in the country.
Honda Motor Co
Around 30 Japanese workers for the company and their families, as well as any family member and employee currently on business trips in China will be evacuated out of Wuhan using a chartered plane from the government.
However, there will be a few people who will remain in Wuhan to keep operations afloat.
All of Peugeot’s expatriate staff members and their families will be evacuated from Wuhan.
Hennes & Mauritz AB
H&M closed 13 Chinese stores temporarily in light of the outbreak and suspend business travels to and from China.
IKEA also closed down its Wuhan warehouse and half of their 30 branches since January 30.
They are offering travel waivers for passengers traveling to and from Beijing or Shanghai from January 24 to January 31 for free.
They are offering a refund or a rebook on flights to China, Hong Kong and Macau as well as a suspension of all flights between Singapore and China from 8 February until end of March.
All 55 Chinese offices are closed and employees are asked to work from home. Those who flew from China are asked to work from home for a short period of time.
In a statement to Business Insider, US supermarket giant Walmart said that they will still have their Chinese locations open despite the coronavirus outbreak. However, precautionary measures are enforced to protect customers and staff.
It is not clear when the virus will be stopped from spreading across China and the world. However, while it is not yet clear when it will end, do not indulge in fear-mongering and always fact-check the source of your news.
Wherever you are, let’s take precaution by observing good hygiene:
Wash your hands
Have your temperature checked regularly
Avoid large crowd
Never touch your face with unclean hands
To my China friends who are reading this post
Best things in life are meant to be shared, start spreading MiddleMe around, after all, sharing is caring.