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International firms respond to Covid-19

International companies in Bermuda are continuing to scale back business travel for employees in the wake of the global coronavirus outbreak, The Royal Gazette understands.

Some companies have axed overseas trips for staff until further notice, while others have put restrictions in place for destinations with confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Bermuda has not imposed travel restrictions to block visitors from anywhere in the world entering the island, but it is understood that some companies are now limiting visits from overseas clients and colleagues.

Roland “Andy” Burrows, CEO of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, said: “Covid-19 is presenting an unprecedented global challenge.

“Helping to mitigate the outbreak and protect employees is of the upmost importance for all international businesses, as well as the BDA, while also ensuring continuity of operations.

“At times like these, it remains critical for everyone to focus on the facts and communicate responsibly to help contain any speculation, hype and panic.”

Mr Burrows said the Government, led by the Ministry of Health, was actively monitoring the situation in line with recommendations from leading international authorities and was publishing current information on its website.

He added: “As such, we are advising the Bermuda business community and the community at large, to follow the appropriate, and proportionate, prevention measures.

“While individual companies will put in place responsible and necessary guidance, it is important to reiterate that Bermuda has no confirmed cases of the virus at this time and we are open to business.

“The BDA will continue to advise our stakeholders and international clients of the Bermuda Government's position and all pronouncements relating to coronavirus through our media channels.”

John Huff, chief executive of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, would not comment yesterday on whether any member firms had indicated that they were imposing travel restrictions on staff and using alternatives to face-to-face meetings for global clients.

He said: “Member companies are making individual decisions on travel.”

Mr Huff added that Abir had shared with its members advice for businesses and employees from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

He noted that Bermuda was ranked lowest risk on the US Department of State's four-tier travel risk advisory, with travellers told to “exercise normal precautions”.

HSBC Bermuda said earlier this week it had “restricted travel to a number of destinations until further notice” for staff.

Angell Kasparian, a director at KPMG, a global accounting and professional services firm, said the company was “monitoring the situation very closely”.

“We are deeply saddened by the personal impact it is having,” said Ms Kasparian.

“Self-quarantine rules are in effect for high-risk areas but that has very limited impact on our business in Bermuda.

“With technology in place, we are able to easily keep working with our other offices or any clients around the world. Should an issue develop locally, we have flexible work arrangements in place and, again, technology allows us to work from anywhere.”

A spokeswoman for Third Point Re, a Bermuda-headquartered company which also has offices in New Jersey and London, said: “The health and safety of our staff and their families continues to be, as always, of paramount importance to us.

“We have a proactive health and safety committee that ensures our employees have a safe and secure working environment.

“We are actively monitoring the developing situation closely and communicating with employees. We already have protocols in place to allow for working remotely, modifying our travel policy and ensuring business continuity.”

The Ministry of Health says travellers from affected areas, including countries with reported sustained or ongoing community transmission of Covid-19 and related travel routes, are being monitored upon arrival to Bermuda.

Those returning from affected areas, including China, Iran, Northern Italy, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, are asked to self-quarantine until a risk assessment is completed by a public health officer.

Guidance from the Ministry of Health is available at www.gov.bm/health-information

Under advisement: BDA CEO Roland “Andy” Burrows said the BDA would continue to advise stakeholders and international clients of the island's position(Photograph supplied)

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Published March 05, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated March 05, 2020 at 8:18 am)

International firms respond to Covid-19

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