Companies opt to put flu pandemic precautions on cruise control

Kyodo News

Companies are heeding the government’s call to calmly take precautions against H1N1 swine flu after it was upgraded Thursday to a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Many firms have no immediate plans to step up their measures against the new strain of influenza, as the initial wariness against it in the corporate sector has eased. Instead, they are continuing existing precautionary steps, including instructing employees to wear masks and wash their hands, companies said.

The announcement of a global pandemic and upgrading to the highest level of Phase 6 by WHO Director General Margaret Chan will not bring an “abrupt change in the domestic situation,” an official of Toshiba Corp. said.

A public relations official of Mitsubishi Electric Corp. said, “Even with the raising of the flu alert phase, we have no plans to change our current measures.”

Among other major firms, Hitachi Ltd. has removed thermographic scanners it set up at its head office to check employees’ body temperatures.

Asahi Breweries Ltd., Kirin Brewery Co. and Suntory Holdings Ltd. have resumed tours at their factories, mainly in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures, which were the most badly hit by H1N1 infections.

In the retail industry, Aeon Co. and Ito-Yokado Co. lifted their instruction to employees working mainly in the Kansai region to wear masks.

Employee absences

Companies could lose a total of ¥201.1 billion due to employee absences if a one-week nationwide closure of nurseries, kindergartens and elementary schools is imposed because of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, a key think tank said Friday.

The estimate is based on the school closures implemented due to H1N1 cases in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures in May, Toray Corporate Business Research Inc. said.

Of the 47 prefectures, Tokyo would see the largest loss, at ¥21 billion, followed by Kanagawa at ¥14.4 billion and Aichi at ¥12.8 billion.