Nigeria: Covid-19 - Companies Suspend Business Travels

28 February 2020

Against the backdrop of the spread of Coronavirus, some of the world's biggest employers are taking stringent measures to curb travel amid fear over its effect on global economy.

On Thursday, Nestle and L'Oreal suspended business travel as fears rise over Covid-19's spread.

Other companies are canceling corporate off-site events around the globe and making contingency plans for more employees to work remotely.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Nestlé SA told more than 290,000 employees to suspend all international business travel until March 15, and requested that all domestic trips be skipped whenever possible for now.

Nestle is the world's largest food and beverage company, with presence in many countries across the world, including Nigeria.

The company told employees to avoid traveling for business until at least mid-March following similar recommendation at L'Oreal, the cosmetics owner of global brands like Lancome and Maybelline, which extends through March 31 as a "precautionary measure".

The company said it "shares global concerns over the spread and impact on public health of coronavirus."

Covid-19 in Nigeria

Nigeria recorded its first case of Coronavirus after an Italian national tested positive to the virus, the Federal Ministry of Health said Thursaday.

"The case is an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on the 25th of February from Milan, Italy for a brief business visit. He fell ill on the 26th February and was transfered to Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and testing," the Lagos State Ministry of Health also said in a statement.

"#COVID2019 infection was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital @LUTHofficial, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control @NCDCgov.

"The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital (Mainland Hospital) in Yaba, Lagos."

It is the third reported case of Coronavirus in Africa after Egypt and Algeria; the suspect in the former, a foreigner, later tested negative to the virus. In Algeria, an Italian who arrived Algiers on February 17 tested positive.

The virus has infected more than 82,000 people and killed at least 2,800 since emerging in central China at the end of last year. It has spread to over 40 countries in less than two months.

The World Health Organization has issued health guidelines for businesses, and companies have also devised their own plans for keeping their work environment and communities safe.

Reports said British American Tobacco Plc, the maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes, said it reduced travel to the bare minimum. Other companies including Coca-Cola Co. and Kraft Heinz Co. are said to have opted to avoid affected countries.

Local Italian reports suggest that Unilever may have been forced to close its plant in Casalpusterlengo after a worker at the site tested positive and was subsequently hospitalized. Casalpusterlengo is a municipality in the Province of Lodi in the Italian region Lombardy, located about 50 kilometres southeast of Milan.

Globally, the travel curbs are bound to hit industries from airlines to hotels that are already reeling from China's drastic response. Air France-KLM last week warned that the outbreak will wipe as much as 200 million euros ($219 million) from earnings.

Companies in other sectors have also canceled events or encouraged working from home to minimize employees' exposure.

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