Ford, GM Request Employees to Drop Non-Essential Travel to Wuhan

General Motors (GM) and Ford Motor are among a growing number of global companies operating in China that are limiting travel or forgoing long-held traditions around Lunar New Year to protect their employees against a spreading deadly coronavirus epidemic.

The U.S. auto manufacturers, along with HSBC and other firms, are limiting non-essential travel to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak that so far has killed nine people and seen cases spread across the area and even to the U.S. China has kicked off a nationwide screening to deal with the epidemic of the new respiratory virus, with millions set to travel during the looming Lunar New Year holiday.

The World Health Organization will determine Wednesday whether to declare the new coronavirus a world public health emergency, a label used for complicated epidemics that can cross frontiers.

All of the nine deaths have been from Wuhan, a city of 11 million individuals. They embody eight men, aged 61 to 87, and a 48-year-old woman — with virtually all of them having pre-existing sicknesses.

Ford, which doesn’t operate in Wuhan, suggested its workers not to journey to the town, saying by way of e-mail that it’s “watching the problem and will adapt, as necessary.” Ford’s Chinese operations are situated in Chongqing and Nanjing, which are around 900 kilometers and 650 kilometers, respectively, from Wuhan.

Social media juggernaut Tencent Holdings was among Chinese companies that reacted swiftly to reduce individual contact.

It withdrew a longstanding annual tradition, the place top executives hand out Lunar New Year red envelopes in-person to employees.

The WeChat operator is suspending travel to Wuhan, along with brokerage Citic Securities Co., according to individuals aware of the matter.