Google employee in Switzerland tests POSITIVE for coronavirus, canceling internal conference

Saturday, February 29, 2020
By Paul Martin

by: Darnel Fernandez
Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Google employee from the tech giant’s Switzerland office has tested positive for COVID-19 as Google and other American corporations crack down on their employee travel amid the ongoing outbreak.

On Friday, Business Insider received a statement from a Google spokesperson, saying that they “can confirm that one employee from [their] Zurich office has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.” But, the company claims that the employee was not symptomatic while they were in the office. A notification email was sent to all Google employees to inform them about the case. As of 2019, Google and its parent company, Alphabet, has nearly 120,000 full-time employees.

“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,” the spokesperson added.

While the Switzerland office will remain open for now, the California-based tech company is currently preventing its employees from traveling to Iran and two Italian regions where the outbreak of coronavirus is prevalent: Lombardy and Veneto. However, starting March 2, Google will also restrict their travel to South Korea and Japan.

Furthermore, Recode found that Google has recently set up signs in their Bay Area offices about general guidelines to help prevent the spread of the virus. Recode reports:

Recode has also learned that Google recently put up signs in at least two Bay Area offices outside bathrooms reminding people to wash their hands and cover their mouths, with a link to an internal site about the coronavirus at the bottom. The intranet site has infection prevention tips like asking employees who host events to make sure there is sufficient hand sanitizer and “appropriate hand-washing facilities,” according to a source who works at the company.

The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that originated in Wuhan, China has now aggressively spread around the world, infecting thousands of people across 40 different countries with a flu-like disease known as COVID-19. Google has already restricted its employees from traveling to China, only giving exceptions for employees returning home. In addition, all international travel over the next 90 days should be sent in for review. (Related: Costco runs out of “emergency food kits” following coronavirus outbreak.)

Cancellations over virus concerns

Following the COVID-19 cases and the growing concern over the outbreak, Bloomberg reported that Google canceled a “major internal gathering” for sales and marketing that was scheduled to happen in March – one of the latest to join the wave of events and conferences being canceled around the world.

“In light of the evolving coronavirus situation we made the decision to cancel an internal event that would have brought thousands of employees together from across two continents,” said a Google spokesman.

Companies and event organizers worldwide have been canceling gatherings in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Switzerland has recently announced an immediate ban on all large events, whether public or private, involving more than 1,000 people, leading to the cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show.

The annual San Francisco Game Developers Conference (GDC), where around 30,000 interactive industry professionals were supposed to gather, is also canceled over coronavirus fears. Many of the leading gaming companies, including Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Sony Interactive Entertainment, have already pulled out of the convention, which eventually led to the postponing of the event.

“After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March,” read a statement distributed through email by GDC officials. “Having spent the past year preparing for the show with our advisory boards, speakers, exhibitors, and event partners, we’re genuinely upset and disappointed not to be able to host you at this time.”

It is still unclear whether the coronavirus outbreak would leave an impact on Google’s business. The Google spokesman declined to leave a comment beyond confirming the cancellation of the event.

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