Bank of Nova Scotia, the Canadian lender with operations in about 30 countries, has suspended all non-essential business travel as the coronavirus outbreak spreads worldwide.
Scotiabank told its nearly 100,000 employees of its decision, which applies to both domestic and international travel effective immediately, in a firm-wide email sent Thursday from the human resources department, according to people familiar with the memo. Any exceptions require approval from an executive vice president.
The Toronto-based lender joins other companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co. in restricting business trips as the spreading coronavirus risks becoming a pandemic.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization raised the global risk for the new coronavirus to “very high” from “high.” James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, said rate cuts may be necessary if it becomes a pandemic, and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said school closings are likely.
Italy, the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe, is expected to approve emergency measures. Germany quarantined about 1,000 people and Switzerland banned large events, leading to the Geneva car show being cancelled. Iran and South Korea revealed more coronavirus cases and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, confirmed the first infection south of the Sahara desert.
Mexico confirmed its first case, while Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Britain all reported new infections. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to chair an emergency meeting next week.
Fear over the economic fallout tightened its grip on global markets, sending US equities to a seventh straight loss and sparking demand for safe assets from Treasuries to the yen. Brent crude dipped below $50 a barrel for the first time since December 2018.