Techies put on work from home as IT firms grapple with coronavirus scare

Several companies located in the IT Parks in Bengaluru and Hyderabad have asked their employees to work from home

Coronavirus outbreak, IT Parks, Karnataka, Telangana, Work from home, Wipro, Cognizant, Hyderabad, Bengaluru
CISF personnel and passengers wear protective masks, in wake of the deadly novel coronavirus, at the airport in Chennai. Photo: PTI

From curbing overseas travel to offering a work-from-home option to their employees, the information technology companies in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, the major hubs in the country, are going all out to handle the fallout of coronavirus scare.

Software major Wipro announced in Bengaluru that it has imposed a travel ban on China, Hong Kong, and Macau advising employees not to travel to these countries.

Related news: Offices evacuated at IT Park as panic over coronavirus grips Hyderabad

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“Wipro has suspended travel to and transit through mainland China, including Hong Kong and Macau, until further notice. Employees have also been advised to avoid non-critical travel to Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Italy,” the company said in a statement.

Companies like Cognizant, HCL, Amazon, Accenture, and ANZ operating in Bengaluru have announced similar measures.

Hyderabad on alert

“The news of a techie testing positive for coronavirus has impacted the psyche of employees. But, as an association, we are providing safety regulations and protocols to be followed by IT companies,” said Murali Bollu, president, Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association (Hysea).

Along with providing basic hygiene-related measures, Hysea has asked its member companies to avoid non-essential travel by its employees, continuously monitor its employees for any flu-like symptoms and also to offer a work-from-home option.

The employees, on the other hand, were instructed to report any change in their health and proceed for screening if any symptoms emerge.

Related news: Karnataka govt appeals to public not to believe in rumours over coronavirus

Apart from providing sanitisers and masks to their employees, many companies are following the travel guidelines issued by different international agencies.

Nearly five lakh people are employed in the IT, ITES and other technology companies in Hyderabad where some of the global software giants have set up their largest campuses outside their American headquarters.

“One of the attractive perks for any IT employee is the opportunity to go on-site. But, due to the ongoing health scare many employees are now reluctant to travel,” said the president of the Telangana IT Association (TITA) Sundeep Kumar Makthala.

“As a precautionary measure, we have asked the IT companies not to send their employees on foreign trips for at least two months,” the State IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan said.

Hangouts Meet

Even as some of the biggest industry conferences and events around the world are getting cancelled due to fears coronavirus, as a responsive measure, technology giant Google this week rolled out free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities till July 1. It is available to all G Suite customers globally.

Industry body Nasscom too issued an advisory to all the IT companies and suggested that besides the travel ban and hygiene, employees returning from leave can be asked to give a self-declaration that they have not been to any impacted areas.

“If they have been in any of these places, work from home/quarantine is being recommended to the employees,” the advisory said.

Related news: Coronavirus cases confirmed; Karnataka, Telangana on high alert

Meanwhile, Chennai-based Cloud service firm Zoho Corp said it has changed work policies to adopt work-from-home as the default policy for all its offices worldwide as a matter of precaution.

“Although we have had no known cases of infection, our employees are encouraged to come to our offices only when absolutely necessary. We will retain this policy until the threat of the virus has passed, or has reduced substantially,” the company noted.

Panic at IT Park

Panic has gripped Raheja Mindspace, a technology park located in the heart of Hyderabad’s IT hub housing 20 towers, after one of the buildings was evacuated on Wednesday (March 4), following two suspected cases of coronavirus.

However, the authorities heaved a sigh of relief when both the persons tested negative for the deadly virus.

One of the persons with suspected Covid-19 symptoms works with a Dutch multinational company DSM located in building number 20.

“The colleague has self-quarantined, correctly following DSM guidelines and protocols, and notified us and the relevant health authorities. We are checking in on the colleague and family regularly to make sure everyone is okay. The colleague has mild symptoms and is in good spirits.

Related news: Coronavirus: Contagion now threatens the health of Indian economy

“As a precautionary measure, we have told all other employees based at the same site to work from home until further notice. Our facilities will also undergo thorough disinfection so that they can reopen again safely,” the company had said in a statement.

Several companies located in the IT Park have asked their employees to work from home. A spokesperson of Cognizant, hosed in the same building, said that the company would resume operations from the premises from Friday (March 6).

Meanwhile, the condition of a 24 year old software engineer, who tested positive for the virus and is undergoing treatment at an isolation ward in a state-run hospital here, is stable. The patient, who works for an IT company in Bengaluru, had contracted the infection while on an official visit to Dubai last month.

The Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar, IT secretary Jayesh Ranjan and other officials had a meeting with the representatives of the industry to review the preparedness and chalk out preventive measures.

“Any person showing symptoms like sneezing, cough, and cold should not go to the office and create a scare,” Ranjan said.

Udipi case

A 75-year old man who arrived in Karnataka’s Udupi from Israel has been admitted to hospital and isolated for suspected coronavirus case.

According to the Udupi district hospital officials, the person, along with his wife, had returned from Israel after visiting his son who’s employed there. The person’s throat swab and blood samples have been sent to Bengaluru Medical College. And the results are expected on Saturday.

Related news: Coronavirus: Army to establish quarantine centres for 1,500 personnel

District Health Officer Dr Sudheer Chandra said they are now preparing a list of foreign tourists who arrived in the recent past and screen them for COVID-19.  He also said that committees were formed at district and taluk-level to monitor the spread of the epidemic.

The DHO warned of initiating legal against those attempting to spread rumours or trigger coronavirus scare on social media.

Meanwhile, as a precautionary measure, the Karnataka government has issued a circular directing school to grant leave to students and staff suffering from cold or fever.

As of Friday, no positive case has been recorded in Karnataka.me as IT firms grapple with coronavirus scare

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