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Companies cautious about impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant

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Nov. 29 (Reuters) – Companies tired by the pandemic struggled to assess the impact of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus on Monday, with industries from airlines to automobiles awaiting more details to help determine how it could affect their operations and their profits.

The World Health Organization warned on Monday that the Omicron variant carries a very high global risk of outbreaks of infection. Frightened investors wiped around $ 2 trillion from global stocks on Friday, but markets were calmer on Monday. Read more

Countries quickly imposed travel bans from southern Africa, where the variant was first discovered. Japan and Israel have gone even further, announcing bans on all foreign visitors.

Some airlines have said they are not significantly changing their schedules, but industry sources said major carriers have acted quickly to protect their hubs by restricting passenger travel from southern Africa, fearing that An Omicron spread does trigger restrictions from other destinations. Read more

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary saw no reason to cancel flights, although he was concerned that some countries could stop air travel. Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), Germany’s flagship airline, said its flights were always well booked. Read more

U.S. President Joe Biden met with general managers of major retailers and other companies on Monday to discuss how to move merchandise to the shelves as the holiday shopping season in the United States begins in the shadow of Omicron. Read more

Ahead of the meeting, Walmart (WMT.N) CEO Doug McMillon cited the improvement in the supply chain, noting that the retailer had seen a 26% increase in shipping containers passing through U.S. ports over the past four last few weeks.

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said on Monday it was too early to say whether Omicron will have an impact on global supply chains. Read more

The prospect of a fast-spreading variant has raised fears of a return to the kind of restrictions that shut down many industries in 2020.

In the United States, auto factories were closed for two months last year. Even after automakers restarted operations, they cut production schedules due to semiconductor chip shortages and other supply chain constraints. Automakers said it was too early to predict Omicron’s impact.

“This is new,” said Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) spokeswoman Lloryn love-Carter. “We are monitoring of course, but we still have a lot of pretty strict COVID protocols in place. “

General Motors Co (GM.N), America’s largest automaker, said it was monitoring closely and that its COVID-19 safety protocols remain in place at its factories.

“We continue to strongly encourage our employees to get vaccinated given the wide availability of safe and highly effective vaccines,” GM spokeswoman Maria Raynal said in an email. “We will continue to review and adjust our protocols as new information regarding this variant becomes available.”

Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said its U.S. management team will meet on Tuesday to discuss the Omicron variant and whether the Japanese automaker needs to take any further action.

“Right now we’re in ‘information gathering’ mode,” Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin said. “As most of our employees are based in factories, we have never stopped COVID protocols such as social distancing, health exams, masking. “

Ford Motor Co (FN), Stellantis (STLA.MI) and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) also said they continue to follow strict safety protocols for employees at all U.S. facilities.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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