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Companies on alert as COVID-19 cases surge

SK, LG, Posco, Coupang employees infected

Thermal sensing cameras installed at the entrance of a building to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Yonhap)
Thermal sensing cameras installed at the entrance of a building to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Yonhap)

As the coronavirus has resurged rapidly in the Greater Seoul area in recent days, industries are on alert again, fearing their business could face another bout of shutdowns.

Many major companies resumed their remote work policies, or have flexible working hours to protect their workplace.

Most large firms, including Samsung, LG, SK, KT, Posco and Hyundai Motor have a painful history of closing down their plants and office buildings due to coronavirus patients when the pandemic peaked in spring.

With the latest resurgence of the virus, a series of infection cases were also reported, leading to immediate and reinforced quarantine measures at the workplaces.

Chipmaker SK hynix, which saw one employee infected at its Icheon campus on Wednesday, said it is ramping up efforts to prevent further spread.

SK Group as a whole has been expanding remote work policies depending on the circumstances of each affiliate. SK Innovation, SK E&S and SK Innovation decided to allow employees to telecommute throughout this week for all employees.

As for LG Electronics, a patient was found at its Gasan research and development campus in Seoul on Thursday and it closed all floors and conducted quarantine. It has been only three days since an employee working at the LG Seoul Station Building was confirmed to be infected.

On a group-level, LG Group has restricted access for outside visitors at all buildings and workplaces.

LG Chem began a “circular telecommuting system” from Tuesday to June 30 at its business sites in Seoul. LG Display plans to increase the ratio of mandatory remote work to 20 percent by the month-end.

On Wednesday, an employee working at LG CNS headquarters in Magok, Seoul, was confirmed to be infected. But the firm said the employee did not visit the headquarters buildings since Friday last week due to the telework policy.

The nation’s largest automaker Hyundai Motor decided to ban employees from traveling here and abroad expands the voluntary commuting system.

One employee at Kia Motors’ Hwaseong plant was confirmed to be infected. But, it said the factory is currently operating normally because when the worker was confirmed to be infected during the weekend, during which it was closed.

Steelmaker Posco allowed pregnant women and employees to work from home. One employee who works at Posco Center in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, was confirmed to have coronavirus on Thursday.

Samsung Electronics on Thursday told its employees to ban meetings of more than 20 people and keep a distance of more than 1.5 meters when having a meeting. Business trips are allowed only when they are very necessary.

Meanwhile, the nation’s largest e-commerce company Coupang closed down its logistics center in Incheon on Wednesday after an employee in charge of cleaning had coronavirus. On Thursday, multiplex cinema chain CGV suspended the operation at its Yongsan CGV after finding out that a confirmed patient visited the place.

As the COVID-19 cases showed signs of a rapid spread over the weekend, on-line tech companies have been the firsts to reintroduce the work-from-home system.

On Monday, the first working day after patients surged during the weekend, SK Telecom decided to allow employees to work from home for a week, also urging them to reschedule all face-to-face meetings and appointments. Two other mobile carriers, KT and LGU+ also ordered employees to telecommute from Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Mobile massager operator Kakao has been on an indefinite period of telecommuting since Friday. The nation’s largest search engine Naver has also started a “circular work system,” which allow employees to work remotely for three days a week.

By Shin Ji-hye (