KPMG shuts Bristol office for day in face of rising fears over coronavirus’s threat to business

March 13, 2020

More than 500 people working at global accountancy group KPMG’s Bristol office were told to work from home today as the city begins to come to terms with the rapid spread of coronavirus.

KPMG’s decision to close the Queen Square office – along with its London headquarters – is the starkest warning yet that major businesses are facing a huge task in continuing to function while protecting their staff and clients. 

The move coincided with a major shift in the approach to the potentially deadly virus today by a number of organisations.

Bristol’s mayoral and city council elections, due to take place on May 7, have been postponed for a year, while all major sporting events in the city – as in the rest of the UK – have also been cancelled.

KPMG said its actions were part of its contingency planning for possible widespread disruption caused by Covid-19. The effectiveness of the exercise will be judged next week.

Both Bristol and London offices will open as usual on Monday but KPMG said it planned to repeat the exercise again next Friday – extending it to all its UK bases.

The firm has also halted all foreign travel as well as meetings of more than 25 people. These are now conducted virtually.

A KPMG spokesperson said: “We are continuing to prepare for any change in [Public Health England] guidance, including a series of exercises to test remote working this Friday for our London and Bristol offices.

“We will do the same with our regional offices next Friday 20 March.”

Similar plans are likely to be adopted by other employers across Bristol as the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise.

The postponement of major business-related events across the UK and the world is also beginning to have an impact while the ending of direct flights to cities in Italy from Bristol Airport will also hit some businesses.

South by Southwest (SXSW), the global tech and entertainment gathering in Austin, Texas, has been cancelled due to coronavirus fearsthe first time in its 34-year history.

Last year the event drew nearly 74,000 attendees – more than 19,000 from outside the US. A number of Bristol firms and organisation have traditionally used the event to showcase the city’s tech and digital products.

The international property gathering MIPIM in Cannes, at which Bristol and the West of England planned to showcase a number of potentially development sites to would-be investors, has also been cancelled.

Amid all the gloom, there is one event in Bristol that has not succumbed to a coronavirus-linked cancellation. The 23rd annual CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Bristol Beer Festival will still take place from Thursday to Saturday at Brunel’s Old Station, Temple Meads.

Organisers urged anyone with a fever or new persistent cough, or has recently travelled to an affected area or been in close contact with an infected person, to stay away.

Bristol & District CAMRA branch chair Richard Brooks said: “It would be appreciated if customers can bring a debit or credit card to the festival to buy their beer tokens, as this will reduce the need for people to handle cash.

“Also, it is recommended that customers only use their own festival glass and do not share it with other people for tasters etc.”

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