Wed, Jan 29, 2020 - Page 6 News List

VIRAL OUTBREAK: Facebook, others restrict business travel to China

Reuters, SHANGHAI and SEOUL

Facebook Inc and other global companies, including LG Electronics Inc and Standard Chartered PLC, are restricting travel to China, as the death toll from a novel coronavirus rose above 100 yesterday.

Airlines are also canceling flights and adjusting schedules as a growing number of countries raise travel warnings to not just Hubei Province, where the new coronavirus broke out, but also to the rest of China.

The US on Monday said that Americans should “reconsider” visiting all of China, while South Korea elevated its travel warning yesterday, advising its citizens to refrain from visiting China.

Facebook became the first major US company to announce a travel suspension after the US government’s warning.

The company asked employees to halt non-essential travel to China and told employees who had traveled there to work from home, a spokesman said yesterday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have taken steps to protect the health and safety of our employees,” the spokesman told reporters.

South Korean home appliances maker LG has put a complete ban on travel to China and has advised employees on business trips in the country to return home as quickly as possible, a company spokeswoman said.

South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix Inc said it was urging employees to avoid all non-essential travel to China, while banking group Standard Chartered restricted travel to China and Hong Kong.

In Germany, auto supplier Webasto Group, which has 11 sites in China, including Wuhan, has halted all corporate travel to and from China following the outbreak and the infection of an employee.

Japan’s Honda Motor Co Ltd said it recommended employees avoid travel to China, while Nissan Motor Co said it plans to evacuate its Japanese staff and their families in Wuhan via a government-chartered flight.

As companies reassessed the risk of travel to China, some airlines said demand for flights was falling and they were adjusting schedules.

South Korean budget carrier Air Seoul Inc said it would halt all flights to China, while China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) announced a further rescheduling of its flights to China from Friday to Feb. 10, canceling five flights and rearranging the schedules of others.

EVA Airways Corp (長榮航空) also said some flights to China might be canceled.

Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa AG on Monday said that bookings for its flights to and from China were slightly subdued due to the outbreak.

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd (國泰航空) said it was reducing overnight layovers for crew at all points in China as much as possible, resulting in some changes to its flight schedule.

International SOS, a medical and travel security services firm that advises companies on travel, said that its guidance for now is that business travel to China outside Hubei Province could continue.

However, this could be updated if there were major flight cancelations throughout China and more disruptions to ground transport, including rail, International SOS regional security director James Robertson said.

“Many of our clients have chosen to defer or cancel upcoming travel based on their own individual assessments,” Robertson said. “If people do choose to travel they need flexible itineraries accounting for extra time for temperature and health screenings.”

Global banks from Credit Suisse Group SA to Morgan Stanley are telling Hong Kong staff to work from home for two weeks if they have just visited mainland China.

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