March 17, 2020 / 7:00 AM / 17 days ago

Macquarie asks 15,000 staff to stay home; NAB evacuates Australian headquarters

SYDNEY, March 17 (Reuters) - Australia’s Macquarie Group asked most of its 15,700 staff to work from home, while the headquarters of the country’s No. 3 lender National Australia Bank were evacuated on Tuesday after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.

Macquarie’s Chief Operating Officer Nicole Sorbara sent an email to its global workforce on Tuesday, saying that employees in all regions “should work from home until further notice”, the Australian Financial Review reported.

Reuters did not review the memo but a Macquarie spokeswoman confirmed the email and said there was a small amount of people who would be required to be at their offices.

Meanwhile, NAB’s Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan said in a statement that all employees at its Melbourne headquarters had been sent home after an employee tested positive for the virus.

The building would be “pandemically cleansed (and) ready for colleagues to return to work later this week,” McEwan said. The statement did not say how many people had been evacuated.

NAB has about 34,000 employees, most of whom are based in Australia, while about 42% of Macquarie’s 15,700 workers are based in Australia, according to the companies.

Compared to other countries, Australia has so far seen relatively low exposure to the coronavirus, with around 400 cases and five deaths.

While the bulk of those infected with the virus experience only mild symptoms, the disease can be severe or critical in 20% of patients. Its mortality rate is about 3.4%, the WHO has estimated.

Companies around the world are taking measures to protect staff from the highly contagious disease. On Sunday, Kraft Heinz Co asked all office employees to work from home while Alphabet Inc’s Google earlier this month also told its North American staff to work from home if possible.

Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Kim Coghill

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