Coronavirus Hits Amazon Warehouse Workers as Company Ramps Up Hiring

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At least five workers across three Amazon warehouses in Spain and Italy have contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to Bloomberg, which said yesterday that Amazon has kept the warehouses open despite employee protests.

COVID-19's spread has prompted many people to stay home instead of going to work, hitting the gym or doing pretty much anything else that involves exposure to other people. Shoppers gotta shop, though, which is where Amazon comes in.

The company said yesterday that it's "seeing a significant increase in demand, which means our labor needs are unprecedented for this time of year." It will hire an extra 100,000 full and part-time workers in the U.S. to help meet that demand.

Amazon said that it will also "invest over $350 million globally to increase pay by $2/hour in the U.S., £2/hr in the UK and approximately €2/hr in many EU countries for employees and partners who are in fulfillment centers, transportation operations, stores or those making deliveries so that others can remain at home."

Yet, the company's response to COVID-19 within the warehouses themselves has been lacking, according to BuzzFeed News, which reported yesterday that many Amazon workers feel like their own safety hasn't been made a priority.

The workers told BuzzFeed that hand sanitizer, face masks and other protective gear are in short supply. They also said that some managers have insisted on staff meetings despite warnings from health officials not to gather in large groups.

Amazon customers probably won't be affected by these working conditions, however, because experts believe COVID-19 won't spread via packages. That means demand may very well remain high--and that Amazon will keep scrambling to keep up.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.