Companies pulling back from Russia over the war in Ukraine
Here’s a look at the latest major corporate departures.
Ford announced it was suspending its operations in Russia. The American automaker has a 50% stake in Ford Sollers, a joint venture that employs at least 4,000 workers and is shared with Russian company Sollers.
The company has plants in St. Petersburg, Elabuga and Naberezhnye Chelny but said it had “significantly wound down” its Russian operations in recent years. The automaker said it was “deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine,” and noted it has “a strong contingent of Ukrainian nationals working at Ford around the world.”
General Motors said it was halting all exports to Russia “until further notice.”
GM doesn’t have a significant presence there: It sells only about 3,000 vehicles a year through 16 dealerships, according to a spokesperson. That’s out of the more than 6 million vehicles the Detroit-based automaker sells annually.
Toyota announced it would stop making cars in Russia or importing them to the country “until further notice, due to supply chain disruptions.”
Volkswagen is stopping production of vehicles in Russia and has suspended exports to the Russian market. The decision applies to the Russian production sites in Kaluga and Nizhny Novgorod.
Nissan has suspended the export of vehicles to Russia, adding that it “anticipates that production will stop soon at our plant in St. Petersburg.”
Boeing said it would suspend support for Russian airlines.
A company spokesperson confirmed the aircraft maker was pausing “parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines,” and had also “suspended major operations in Moscow and temporarily closed our office in Kyiv.”
Airbus followed Boeing with a similar move. In a statement, the company said it has “suspended support services to Russian airlines, as well as the supply of spare parts to the country.”
Apple has stopped selling its products in Russia.
The tech giant said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned” about the Russian invasion. In response, the company has also moved to limit access to digital services, such as Apple Pay, inside Russia, and restricted the availability of Russian state media applications outside the country.
Facebook-parent Meta said it would block access to Russian news outlets Sputnik and RT, the Russia-backed television network infamous for promoting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agenda, across the European Union.
The move comes after the company received “requests from a number of governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state controlled media,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s VP of global affairs, wrote in a tweet.
Meta has also said it has applied algorithmic restrictions on Russian state media that should prevent those posts from surfacing as prominently in users’ feeds.
Twitter has similarly announced plans to “reduce the visibility and amplification” of Russian state media content.
Netflix said it will be suspending its streaming service in Russia.
“Given the circumstances on the ground, we have decided to suspend our service in Russia,” a Netflix spokesperson told CNN.
No other details were provided.
Previously, the company said it was refusing to air Russian state TV channels — something that the platform would have been required to do starting this week under Russian law.
“Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service,” the company told CNN Business.
Spotify said it has closed its office in Russia “indefinitely” and restricted shows “owned and operated by Russian state-affiliated media.” The streaming service removed all content from RT and Sputnik in Europe and other regions, a company spokesman said.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” the spokesman added. “Our first priority over the past week has been the safety of our employees and to ensure that Spotify continues to serve as an important source of global and regional news at a time when access to information is more important than ever.”
Roku, which sells hardware allowing users to stream content through the internet, has banned RT worldwide.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, said it blocked Russian state media within Ukraine, including RT. The video platform also said it would be “significantly limiting recommendations to these channels.”
Google and YouTube have also said they will no longer allow Russian state media outlets to run ads or monetize their content.
Update on Omicron
Current knowledge about Omicron
Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available.
Transmissibility: It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors.
Severity of disease: It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta. Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron. There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants. Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks. All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.
Effectiveness of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection
Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron (ie, people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with Omicron), as compared to other variants of concern, but information is limited. More information on this will become available in the coming days and weeks.
Effectiveness of vaccines: WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines. Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death.
Effectiveness of current tests: The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.
Effectiveness of current treatments: Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers will still be effective for managing patients with severe COVID-19. Other treatments will be assessed to see if they are still as effective given the changes to parts of the virus in the Omicron variant.
At the present time, WHO is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron. Studies currently underway or underway shortly include assessments of transmissibility, severity of infection (including symptoms), performance of vaccines and diagnostic tests, and effectiveness of treatments.
WHO encourages countries to contribute the collection and sharing of hospitalized patient data through the WHO COVID-19 Clinical Data Platform to rapidly describe clinical characteristics and patient outcomes.
More information will emerge in the coming days and weeks. WHO’s TAG-VE will continue to monitor and evaluate the data as it becomes available and assess how mutations in Omicron alter the behaviour of the virus.
Recommended actions for countries
As Omicron has been designated a Variant of Concern, there are several actions WHO recommends countries to undertake, including enhancing surveillance and sequencing of cases; sharing genome sequences on publicly available databases, such as GISAID; reporting initial cases or clusters to WHO; performing field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand if Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics, or impacts effectiveness of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or public health and social measures. More detail in the announcement from 26 November.
Countries should continue to implement the effective public health measures to reduce COVID-19 circulation overall, using a risk analysis and science-based approach. They should increase some public health and medical capacities to manage an increase in cases. WHO is providing countries with support and guidance for both readiness and response.
In addition, it is vitally important that inequities in access to COVID-19 vaccines are urgently addressed to ensure that vulnerable groups everywhere, including health workers and older persons, receive their first and second doses, alongside equitable access to treatment and diagnostics.
Recommended actions for people
The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.
WHO will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available, including following meetings of the TAG-VE. In addition, information will be available on WHO’s digital and social media platforms.
Source: WHO (World Health Organization)