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Omicron Covid-19 variant: Where Apple, Google, Amazon’s and others now stand on vaccination, reopening office

In light of the increased spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, here’s a look at the steps major tech companies are taking.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
December 23, 2021 6:24:42 pm
However, the researchers noted that it is too early to speculate on how this variant behaves as far as infection and protection from vaccines is concerned.

Major tech companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft have delayed their mandatory return to office policy, which was due to start in January 2022 for many players. This in light of the increased spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant. Here’s a look at the steps the major tech companies are taking in light of Omicron’s spread.

Amazon

Amazon had already announced back in October that all of their employees would not have to come to offices, though initially, it had plans for a return to office by January 2022. They had also lifted mask mandates back in November, which is now back for Amazon warehouse employees, reported CNBC.

“In response to the rapid spread of the Covid-19 omicron variant in the US and guidance from public health authorities and our own medical experts, face coverings are again required for everyone,” the notice reads.

Google

Google has delayed its return to office policy indefinitely. It initially had plans for a return to office in January 2022. According to an internal memo obtained by CNBC, Google employees who haven’t been vaccinated may be put on forced leave or even be fired from the company if they fail to follow Covid-19 rules.

According to the memo, the company gave its employees till December 3—now extended to January 18 – to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a medical or religious exemption.

Google spokesperson Lora Lee Erickson stands behind the policy saying, “As we’ve stated before, our vaccination requirements are one of the most important ways we can keep our workforce safe and keep our services running. We’re committed to doing everything possible to help our employees who can get vaccinated do so, and firmly stand behind our vaccination policy.”

Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent out a memo to company employees explaining that the rise in Covid-19 cases and concerns around the new Omicron variant will lead to a delay in their plans for a return to office to “a date yet to be determined.”

Apple also announced $1,000 bonuses to employees and retail workers for their work from home needs. As of October 2021, Apple is not taking any strict action against unvaccinated employees, though they have mandated regular Covid-19 tests for employees who are still unvaccinated. Apple has also closed three more retail stores in Miami, Ottawa and Annapolis this month amid rising COVID cases, reported Bloomberg. It has restored its mask mandate in stores and in a statement said, it will regularly “monitor conditions” and “adjust our health measures”. It will also continue with daily health checks, Covid-19 testing for employees and offer them paid leave as cases rise.

Intel

According to The Associated Press, Intel has notified all employees to either submit an exemption or get vaccinated against COVID-19 before January 4, 2022. Failure to comply with this demand could potentially lead to unpaid leave.

In a memo issued on December 7, Intel HR head Christy Pambianchi said that unvaccinated employees would need to seek an exemption or get weekly tests, even if they work from home. The company would reportedly review medical and religious exemptions till March 15, 2022. Intel reportedly doesn’t plan on firing unvaccinated employees and would also still provide healthcare benefits to employees on unpaid leave.

Microsoft, Meta

Companies like Microsoft and Meta (previously Facebook) have also enforced vaccine mandates. Microsoft will require proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter their buildings in the US. Meta also mandates that all employees be fully vaccinated before their offices reopen which has been pushed back due to the new Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, Amazon, Meta and Twitter announced that they would not be sending their teams to the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas which is scheduled for January 2022. Other firms like Google still plan to attend. Attendees will need to be fully vaccinated in order to get access to the show floor. But there are concerns that these measures will not be enough given the rise in breakthrough cases with Omicron in the US and other countries

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