Sony Pictures Entertainment Shuts European Offices Amid Spread of Coronavirus

Coronavirus London
Ilyas Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Work sites in London, Paris and Poland will be closed this week as the studio revealed that one employee in London may have been exposed to the virus.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has closed its offices in London, Paris and Gdynia, Poland as a precaution against spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. 

“The health and well-being of our employees is of the utmost importance," the company said in a note to staff. "We thought it was important to share with you that one of our London employees may have been exposed to coronavirus COVID-19 given recent travels to an affected area. Out of an abundance of caution, the London, Paris and Gdynia offices will be closed for the remainder of the week, and employees should work from home."

Sony added that all others across Europe remained open.

The move follows a series of cancellations of film and TV events in Europe and other COVID-19 hotspots and moves by several studios to limit employee exposure to the illness.

Disney this week canceled its European launch event for streaming service Disney+ in London over growing coronavirus fears, and WarnerMedia has ordered its staff worldwide to shut down events and limit corporate travel.

With more new cases of COVID-19 detected in the U.K., Chris Whitty, Britain's chief media officer who is helping to lead the government’s response to the outbreak, told BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday that the coronavirus is likely to be spreading undetected. Officials are on the brink of moving into the phase of "delaying" rather than trying to "contain" transmission, Whitty said.

France has ordered the closure of around 120 schools in virus cluster zones to stem the spread of COVID-19. Some 204 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the country, with four deaths.

In Poland, the first case of coronavirus infection was confirmed Wednesday by the country's health minister, Lukasz Szumowski.

Sony's decision to shut down its local offices is in line with the cautionary approach being taken across the industry. This week alone saw organizers of the inaugural Red Sea Film Festival in Saudi Arabia postpone the event due to health fears. The Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and Bali's APOS Media event were also postponed, while Twitter and Facebook have both confirmed they'll be skipping this month's SXSW festival, which is under pressure to change its dates. The film industry as a whole is facing a $5 billion dollar hit, according to analysts.

So far there are 93,100 confirmed and suspected cases globally, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the outbreak. It says there have been more than 3,190 deaths.