Companies still cautious on impact of Omicron
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Monday it was too soon to tell if Omicron will have any impact on global supply chains. The prospect of a fast-spreading variant has raised fears of a return of the sort of restrictions that shut down a swathe of industries in 2020.
Companies were still cautious on Monday about the impact of the new Omicron virus on their businesses, with airlines saying they were not yet cancelling flights and automakers saying they were still looking at any potential impact on manufacturing. The World Health Organization warned on Monday the Omicron variant of coronavirus carries a very high global risk of surges. Spooked investors wiped roughly $2 trillion off global stocks on Friday, but markets were calmer Monday.
Countries have swiftly imposed bans on travel from southern Africa where the variant was first uncovered. And Japan and Israel went further, announcing bans on all foreign arrivals. Still some airlines said they were not changing schedules. Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary saw no reason to cancel flights although he was worried about some countries potentially shutting air travel. Lufthansa, Germany's flagship airline, said its flights were still well booked.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden planned to meet with chief executives of major retailers and other companies Monday to discuss how to move good to shelves as the U.S. holiday shopping season begins in the shadow of Omicron. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Monday it was too soon to tell if Omicron will have any impact on global supply chains.
The prospect of a fast-spreading variant has raised fears of a return of the sort of restrictions that shut down a swathe of industries in 2020. In the United States, auto plants were closed for two months last year, and even after automakers restarted operations they have curtailed production schedules due to semiconductor chip shortages and other supply-chain constraints. Automakers said it was too soon to predict the impact of Omicron.
"This is new," Nissan Motor Co's U.S. spokeswoman Lloryn love-Carter said. "We're monitoring of course, but we still have a lot of pretty strict COVID protocols in place." Toyota Motor Corp said its U.S. management team will meet on Tuesday to discuss the Omicron variant and whether the Japanese automaker needs to take additional steps.
"Right now we're in the 'gathering info' mode," Toyota's U.S. spokesman Scott Vazin said. "Since most of our employees are based in plants, we've never stopped COVID protocols such as social distancing, health screenings, masking up." Volkswagen also said it continues to implement and follow strict safety protocols for employees at all its U.S. facilities.
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