Google has told many of its 8,000 employees in Ireland to work remotely, while Twitter is recommending that its staff around the world stay home.
Yesterday evening, it emerged that Google has informed the majority of its 8,000 workers in Ireland to work from home today (3 March) after a member of staff reported flu-like symptoms. Shortly after, Twitter advised its 5,000 employees around the world to take similar precautions.
According to reports, it is unlikely that the Google staff member in Dublin has contracted Covid-19. However, it is thought that the tech giant is using this as an opportunity to test whether it has the capacity to allow all of its staff to work remotely in the event that the coronavirus situation escalates, or if another major incident were to take place in the future.
According to Google, the decision will impact most of its offices in Ireland, but not its data centre or Dublin offices in EastPoint and Sandyford.
A spokesperson for Google said: “We continue to take precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of our workforce, and as part of that effort, we have asked our Dublin teams to work from home tomorrow.”
According to the Irish Times, the individual who experienced flu-like symptoms does not have a confirmed case of Covid-19, but a source said the work-from-home initiative is taking place until there is “greater clarity” on whether the individual or those who have been in close contact could be at risk.
Last week, Business Insider reported that a Google employee tested positive for the coronavirus in Zurich.
It is expected that employees in Ireland will return to work as normal from Wednesday (4 March). The news comes after the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Ireland at the weekend, which prompted the HSE to close a secondary school in Dublin to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Similar warnings from Twitter
In a blogpost published yesterday, Twitter also advised its employees to stay at home, out of an “abundance of caution”.
Jennifer Christie, chief HR officer at Twitter, wrote: “In addition to travel, event and visitor restrictions that we previously shared, today we provided additional guidance as we look to protect the health and safety of our workforce.
“Beginning today, we are strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able. Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus for us – and the world around us. We are operating out of an abundance of caution and the utmost dedication to keeping our Tweeps healthy.”
The company acknowledged that working from home is “not ideal for some job functions”, so Twitter will keep its offices open, while increasing deep cleaning and sanitising measures, and offering more visual reminders for personal hygiene best practices.
Twitter said working from home is mandatory for employees based in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea due to government restrictions, but it is an optional measure for staff elsewhere.
Guidelines for businesses
It is expected that Minister for Health Simon Harris will announce guidelines for businesses and mass gatherings as concerns about the virus rise in Ireland. Harris suggested that the Government may approve income support for workers who have to self-isolate in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
The measure comes after concerns were raised about the impact that self-isolation could have on personal income, as some employees may not be paid if they are unable to work remotely.
Harris said that these measures, which would be implemented through the Department of Social Protection, would only apply if large numbers of workers were put in a position where self-isolation was necessary.
As for large gatherings, such as conferences, sports events and concerts, Harris has said that guidelines are expected to be published today. The National Public Health Emergency Team is finalising “its guidelines which then could be issued out to organisations,” he said, so that the Government agency can “start a dialogue where necessary to provide help”.
Last week the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) agreed to postpone a Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy, which was due to take place on Saturday (7 March). This week, the Government will also have to decide on whether the annual St Patrick’s Day Celebrations will take place later this month.
Outside Ireland, a number of big events have been disrupted by the spread of Covid-19, such as Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and Facebook’s F8 Developers Conference.