From Hollywood to Detroit, pandemic-tired companies cautious about Omicron

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 Hollywood movie studios to airlines and automobiles awaiting more details to help determine how it might affect their operations and 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 rallied 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.

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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. 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 Hollywood, where production of film and television shows returned to pre-pandemic levels this summer thanks to strict health and safety precautions, studios were waiting to learn more about this latest mutation of the coronavirus.

“With COVID, it continues to change shape. It’s like mercury – we can’t get around it,” said Dr Neal Baer, ​​a doctor who was a longtime producer of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit “.

“It’s going to take us a few weeks to figure out, one, how well the vaccinations are protecting us, two, if you need a booster and if a booster helps or three, if the vaccine needs to be changed to make it effective against that. mutation.”

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

“It’s new,” said Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) spokesperson 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, has said it is 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.

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

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Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, additional reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles, Tim Hepher in Paris and Alex Alper in Washington; Editing by Peter Graff, Bill Berkrot and Sandra Maler

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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