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U.S. banks and tech firms tell employees to avoid traveling to China

Cases of coronavirus surge in China

Multinational firms ranging from Facebook to Goldman Sachs are trying to curb their employees' exposure to the spreading coronavirus by restricting travel to China, where the epidemic started, and encouraging some staffers in Asia to work from home.

Facebook said this week that it has asked workers to suspend non-essential travel to mainland China, and is also requiring employees who have recently visited the country to work from home upon their return. 

"Out of an abundance of caution, we have taken steps to protect the health and safety of our employees," Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison told CBS MoneyWatch in a statement. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday recommended that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, citing the coronavirus outbreak, believed to have originated in Wuhan, capital of China's Hubei province. The Hong Kong government also has urged residents returning from China to remain in their homes for 14 days.

The virus has killed at least 106 people, all in China. More than 4,500 others have been infected across a dozen countries, including five confirmed cases in the U.S. More than 100 people in 26 states are being tested for the disease.

Major Wall Street firms are also taking evasive action. Investment banks Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Standard Chartered and UBS are also restricting employee travel to China, in line with the CDC's advice, Bloomberg first reported. 

Orders to work from home for 14 days

Standard Chartered is restricting all employee travel to mainland China and Hong Kong, and banning travel to Wuhan and Hubei, a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. Any employees with the bank who are returning from China must work from home for a 14-day period before returning to the office. To further limit the risk of contamination, Standard Chartered is also encouraging its China-based personnel to use technology to minimize face-to-face meetings, as well as providing face masks and hand sanitizer at its offices, the spokesperson said.  

HSBC is encouraging employees who are based in Hong Kong to work from home, a spokesperson said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. The U.K-based bank is also requiring that any employees who have traveled recently through Hubei Province work from home for a period of 14 days. 

The CDC says that symptoms of the coronoavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, UBS, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and OCBC are enforcing similar policies, according to Bloomberg. The banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Americans urged not to travel to China over coronavirus concerns

The effects of the coronavirus are rippling through other industries, as well, with automakers General Motors, Honda and Nissan all halting production in Wuhan. If the temporary shutdown continues, it could have a serious impact on the car manufacturers, said Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives. 

"Right now the impact is containable, but if it continues well past the Chinese New Year it will have an impact on production as well as demand. There will be demand repercussions, especially with Wuhan on lockdown," Ives told CBS MoneyWatch. "With the population restricted, they won't be buying cars," he added. 

U.S. stocks sank Monday on investor concern over the spread of the coronavirus as China limits travel among its citizens, tour groups cancel tours and cruise lines suspend operations in China. The outbreak comes at the height of China's travel season around the Chinese New Year, celebrated between January 25 and February 4. Financial markets regained ground on Tuesday.

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