Coronavirus – London companies send staff home

Health and Education

Three London based companies have sent staff home to reduce their “risk of exposure” to the coronavirus.

Media firm OMD UK joined Crossrail and Chevron in temporarily closing its offices and asking staff to work from home.

OMD UK closed its Fitzrovia Office today (Wednesday) when an employee, recently returned from Singapore and Australia, started showing flu-like symptoms.

Following NHS advice

Earlier, more than 300 staff were sent home from the Canary Wharf offices of Crossrail and US oil giant Chevron. Both firms share the same building and concerns were raised after a Chevron employee, who had spent the weekend skiing in Italy, complained of feeling unwell on Monday.

They did not turn up on Tuesday following NHS advice to report to hospital for a test. A Chevron spokesperson said the company “continues to monitor the situation very closely, utilising the guidance of international and local health authorities.”

OMD said the temporary closure of their office was “a precautionary measure” and that they had asked staff to work from home until “definitive results” of the employee’s test are confirmed.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and follow the guidance provided from the Government and expect to reopen these offices on Monday pending the results”, a spokesperson for the company said.

Testing for coronavirus widened

Testing for coronavirus has been widened to include people with flu-like symptoms at eight hospitals and 100 GP surgeries across the UK.

The pre-emeptive move by Public Health England (PHE) will show if coronavirus is spreading in communities, through the wider testing of hundreds more people.

Since January there have been 7,132 tests carried out in the UK, report the BBC, with 13 confirmed positive – four of whom returned from the cruise ship quarantined in Japan, the Princess Diamond.

In a statement to the House of Commons, health secretary Matt Hancock said it was important not to overreact but acknowledged more cases are expected.

Hancock said UK employers have been sent guidance that any staff asked to self-isolate are entitled to sick leave, adding it is “a very important message for employers”.

13 schools close, 25 send pupils home

The health secretary also advised schools there was no need to close unless a coronavirus case is confirmed, but so far the number that have closed has risen to “at least 13” with a further 25 sending pupils home into quarantine, reports the Guardian.

“The message that we do not have a policy of blanket school closures is important. Unless there is specific professional advice, or until there is a positive test, schools should stay open,” said Hancock.

“Overreaction has its costs too, economic and social, and so we have to keep the public safe but we also need to act in a way that’s proportionate.”

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