Roche tells all Spanish staff to work remotely

A pedestrian walks along an empty street in Haro, northern Spain, on March 9, 2020 Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Swiss pharma giant Roche said on Tuesday it would send all of its 1,200 Spanish employees home starting from Wednesday to work remotely amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

This content was published on March 10, 2020 - 17:11

“The company will maintain its normal activity and will guarantee, as until now, the supply of medicines to hospitals,” Roche said in a statement.

The company made the decision after Spanish authorities ordered to shut down all schools in Madrid on Monday. Twenty-eight people have died in Spain from the coronavirus, with the number of cases jumping on Monday to 1,204, one of the highest in Europe.

In Switzerland, where the number of infections crossed the 500 mark on Tuesday, many big firms have encouraged staff to work from home, such as UBS, Credit Suisse, Swisscom and Google.

The tech giant, for example, recommends that its 4,000 employees in Switzerland work from home “if their role allows”. However, the Google Zurich office remains open and the situation is continually being reviewed, it says. On February 28, the company confirmed that a Zurich employee had been diagnosed with Covid-19.

Roche spokesperson Karsten Kleine said the firm was taking a similar approach in Switzerland, encouraging staff to avoid using public transport during rush hours and making use of flexible working hours. 

"We also reduced the number of  larger on-site team meetings, encourage employees to do virtual meetings and enable home office in coordination with the needs of the company, the respective function and the supervisor," he said.

Elsewhere, UBS and Nestle have imposed travel bans on employees, while fragrance maker Givaudan on Wednesday opted to temporarily close a site near Zurich because an employee contracted the disease. 

The coronavirus outbreak, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has infected about 114,300 people and killed more than 4,000 worldwide, the vast majority in China. Switzerland, meanwhile, recorded a third death on Tuesday due to Covid-19, an 80-year-old woman in Ticino

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