World News

Japan Inc shifts to online press briefings as coronavirus spreads

By Takashi Umekawa

TOKYO (Reuters) – Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc (MUFG) <8306.T> on Tuesday became the latest Japanese firm to cancel a news conference due to fears over the escalating coronavirus outbreak, opting instead for a telephone conference with reporters.

The decision by Japan’s biggest bank, following moves by other companies, reflects growing concern among companies about the virus after the government urged companies to recommend telecommuting and staggered shifts for workers.

The government plan, approved a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, also urged people with symptoms of cold or fever to stay at home and asked event organizers to carefully consider whether to proceed with their plans.

“We wanted to have this conference in person, but considered the coronavirus influence,” MUFG’s deputy president and incoming CEO Hironori Kamezawa said on the teleconference following the announcement about its investment in Singapore’s ride-hailing app Grab.

Nissan Motor Co Ltd <7201.T> limited its launch event of a new car to a livestream, while Nomura Holdings Inc <8604.T> provided a teleconference option to reporters for a briefing about a new investment trust product.

Japan has 160 domestic infections, apart from 691 on a ship in the port of Yokohama south of Tokyo, the British-registered Diamond Princess, since it docked on Feb. 3. On Tuesday, broadcaster NHK reported a fourth death among passengers.

Rather than trying to contain the disease outright, authorities are seeking to slow its expansion and minimize deaths. Telecommuting, or working online or from home, would reduce the infection risk from people gathered in one place.

(Reporting by Takashi Umekawa; Editing by David Dolan and Louise Heavens)