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JPMorgan Chase ‘strongly’ urges all U.S. employees to get vaccinated ahead of office return

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JPMorgan Chase is `strongly’ urging all its U.S. employees get the Covid-19 vaccine, warning that the jab may eventually be mandatory for workers, according to a memo sent late Wednesday.

The bank is now requiring all U.S. workers to log their vaccination status in a software portal by June 30. Those who are vaccinated don’t need to wear masks, socially distance or log their health status on a daily basis when they return to office life; those who aren’t vaccinated need to wear masks and are encouraged to take weekly Covid tests, JPMorgan said.

“We strongly urge all of our employees to be vaccinated because we think it protects you, your friends and family, your fellow employees, and the community at large,” the bank said in the memo, signed by its entire operating committee led by CEO Jamie Dimon.

“We also believe that the more employees who are vaccinated, the safer our offices will be for everyone,” JPMorgan said. “In the future, we may mandate that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination consistent with legal requirements and medical or religious accommodations.”

JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets with almost 260,000 employees globally, is taking a more gradual approach to vaccine enforcement than smaller rival Morgan Stanley. Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley announced that only vaccinated employees and clients could enter offices starting July 12.

At JPMorgan, while employees can choose to keep their vaccination status private, it means they must continue all the precautions, including social distancing, of the pre-vaccine era.

And the unvaccinated are still expected to return to assigned office locations, along with all other U.S. employees, by July 6. Bloomberg reported the memo earlier.

Here is the memo:

Dear colleagues,

In our country today, we all should feel extremely grateful and fortunate that we are starting to see the pandemic in the rear-view mirror. Given the availability and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and other improved health indicators in the U.S., we are now taking steps to properly prepare for returning to the office in a safe and productive way. We are doing this because we believe that human interaction, spontaneous learning and creativity are so important to the way we run our company and serve our clients.

We want to be very specific about what we expect and what the requirements are related to working in the office.

I.        We need all U.S. employees — it is now mandatory — to log into and enter responses in the JPMC COVID-19 Vaccine Record Tool by June 30. If you don’t, your manager will follow-up with you individually until a response is received. We need you to enter this information so that we can properly prepare for and manage returning to the office in a very detailed way, and by location.

There are three possible answers to the question we will ask you:

a.       I am vaccinated

b.       I am not vaccinated

c.       I choose not to share my vaccination status with JPMorgan Chase (it is fine not to tell us, but you must respond)

   II.        If you have been vaccinated, have entered your data into the Tool, and have uploaded your COVID-19 vaccination card, you will no longer need to wear a mask or social distance in most locations in accordance with our current practices, and you will no longer be required to complete the Daily Health Check beginning July 6. (Note: U.S. Branch employees should continue to follow State-by-State Face Covering Guidance.)

  III.        If you indicate that you are unvaccinated or select the “I choose not to share my vaccination status with JPMorgan Chase” option, we still expect you to return to the office. You will be strongly encouraged to test for COVID-19 weekly and will also have to continue to wear a mask, complete the Daily Health Check and practice social distancing when in the office in accordance with our current practices.

  IV.        We strongly urge all of our employees to be vaccinated because we think it protects you, your friends and family, your fellow employees, and the community at large. We also believe that the more employees who are vaccinated, the safer our offices will be for everyone. In the future, we may mandate that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination consistent with legal requirements and medical or religious accommodations.

V.        Finally, beginning July 6, we expect all U.S. employees to move to a regular schedule, in your assigned office location, subject to occupancy limits and as directed by your manager. In many cases this may be five days each and every week, and for others it will mean a minimum of 50% of your workdays will be in the office, due to occupancy limits. We are aware that some teams are piloting a hybrid approach that varies by job, such as three days in the office or 50% rotations, but we want each of you back regularly so that we can test the effectiveness of these models as quickly as possible.

Over the past month it has been terrific to see more of you safely returning to our U.S. offices, and we have been pleased to hear from many of you that our workspaces are better than ever. You’ve commented on the health and safety protocols we’ve put in place, the new technology we’ve rolled out and, most importantly, how good it feels to see your colleagues in person.

We look forward to seeing more of you very soon.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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Singapore retailers reeling from Covid measures as sales drop up to 70%

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People inside a shopping mall in Singapore on May 15, 2021, ahead of tightening restrictions over concerns of a rise in Covid-19 coronavirus cases.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s brick and mortar businesses have been hit hard by Covid-19 and retailers have seen sales plummet significantly as a result of Covid restrictions, according to a retail trade body in the country.

Sales have plunged between 30% to 70% for some retailers since the onset of the pandemic, according to Rose Tong, executive director of the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), a not-for-profit organization with 420 members spanning sectors like fashion, electronics, beauty and wellness, as well as food retailers and supermarkets.

With each round of tightened restrictions, sales have declined between 50% to 80%, she told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.

Singapore re-imposed tighter Covid-19 restriction again on Thursday, as the number of Covid cases climbed due to several clusters in karaoke bars as well as wet markets. The increased measures — which include the barring of dine-in services and limiting public gatherings to two — will last until Aug. 18.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 170 new cases of Covid-19, of which 162 were locally transmitted infections. The number of new cases in the community has grown rapidly, and spiked to 883 cases in the past week from 127 cases the week before, according to the ministry’s report. 

As a result of the continued restrictions, shopper traffic has dipped significantly — but retailers are still paying the full cost of rent, she said.

“We are hoping that landlords are more proactive and they would take a fair share of the burden,” she said, adding that some business owners are seeking support from their landlords to offer rental rebates.

Pivot to online sales

On Friday, the government announced a support package worth 1.1 billion Singapore dollars ($808 million) to help businesses and workers impacted by the latest restrictions.

They included a jobs support scheme for sectors like restaurants and gyms affected, as well as those in the retail and entertainment sector.

Other measures include support for local retailers to get on-board local online retail platforms.

During the Great Singapore Sale shopping festival from June to July, SRA partnered with e-commerce site Lazada to boost online turnovers. This helped drive up sales and there was a high uptake in home deliveries, said Tong.

While businesses have started adopting digital strategies to improve sales, there are plenty of challenges ahead, she added.

“We do face very intense global market competition from the market places all over the world. Cost is high with deliveries and the cost of goods,” she said.

Online retail accounts for less than 20% of sales for brick-and-mortar businesses, Tong said.

Members of the SRA collectively hire more than 80,000 workers, and have an annual revenue of more than 32 billion Singapore dollars ($23.5 billion), according to the website.

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UK college offers medical students $13,700 to defer their degree

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The U.K.’s University of Exeter is offering students who want to study medicine a £10,000 ($13,735) bursary and free first-year accommodation to defer their place, due to increased demand to study at the medical school. 

In addition to offering students a financial incentive to defer their spot to study medicine at the university, located in southwest England, the college is also giving them the option to study a post-graduate program prior to the starting their medical studies in 2022. 

University of Exeter Deputy Vice-Chancellor Mark Goodwin said there had been a “significant upturn” in the number of students picking the college as their first choice to study medicine this year. 

The U.K. government subsidizes the cost of studying certain health care courses, like medicine, which is typically a five-year course. This means it only allocates a certain number of places to study medicine at U.K. colleges per year. 

The cost of a medical degree to the U.K. taxpayer is estimated to be around £185,000, according to the Medical Schools Council, an organization which represents U.K. medical schools.

According to MSC data, the number of applications to study medicine in 2021 rose by nearly 21% on the previous year. By comparison, the data published by MSC showed applications to study medicine rose by close to 6% between 2019 and 2020, indicating an overall jump in demand for the course in 2021. 

It said the number of available places to study medicine remained the same in 2021 at 9,500, as in 2020, but that the government has funded 450 additional places for those students who were required to defer their place last year.

Goodwin said the university’s “number one priority is ensuring the students that study with us enjoy high quality, safe and fulfilling education.” 

Coronavirus lockdowns in the U.K. saw colleges move lectures online, with many students studying from university accommodation that they had already paid for and some were even forced to isolate in halls of residence. Students expressed anger at certain universities’ handling of infection outbreaks and the fact that fees remained the same despite courses being taught online

The disruption prompted some students to rethink their plans to go to college in the fall of 2020. A small study of 516 students conducted by London Economics, published in May 2020, found that 28% of respondents said they did not intend to go to university in the fall last year if their chosen college was not operating as normal and still had many Covid-19 restrictions in place.

Check out: These are the top 10 industries hiring new college graduates

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Shares of Indian food delivery start-up surge in debut

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Zomato food delivery partners is seen on a road in Kolkata , India.

Debarchan Chatterjee | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Shares of Indian food delivery start-up Zomato jumped more than 70% in their stock market debut Friday.

The initial public offering price was set at 76 rupees a share and the stock opened at 116 rupees on the National Stock Exchange of India — a 52.63% premium. That valued the company at about 910 billion rupees ($12.2 billion).

Zomato shares are also trading on the BSE, India’s other stock exchange, where they opened at 115 rupees per unit.

As of 12:55 p.m. HK/SIN, Zomato shares traded at 130.7 rupees, slightly off an earlier session high of 138.90 rupees.

The company filed to go public in April, saying it plans to use the proceeds to fund growth, which may include mergers or takeovers. Zomato is offering 1.23 billion shares, valuing the IPO at 93.75 billion rupees. That includes issuing fresh shares worth up to 90 billion rupees as well as up to 3.75 billion rupees worth of stock sold by existing shareholders.

Reuters reported that last week Zomato’s IPO drew $46.3 billion in bids and was more than 38 times oversubscribed, with big institutional investors placing major bets.

Zomato, along with rival start-up Swiggy, dominates India’s $4.2 billion food delivery market, which is highly competitive but also very fragmented.

Apart from food delivery, Zomato also lets users book tables and aggregates reviews for restaurants. Tech giant Uber sold its India food delivery business to Zomato last year in an all-stock transaction that gave the U.S. company a stake in the start-up. Zomato’s other prominent backers include Indian internet company Info Edge, Alibaba-affiliate Ant Group and Singapore state investor Temasek.

In its prospectus, the Indian tech company said it faces intense competition from chain restaurants that have their own online ordering platforms. Other competitors include cloud kitchens and restaurants that operate their own delivery fleets, as well as offline ordering done by phone.

For the year ended March 31, Zomato reported a loss of 8.16 billion rupees — an improvement from the previous year’s 23.86 billion rupee loss. But, the company’s revenue from operations slipped 23.46% on-year to 19.94 billion rupees.

Zomato is the first of a slate of prominent local start-ups to go public at a time when Indian markets have shown their resilience despite economic uncertainty from the pandemic.

Payments giant Paytm has filed for a $2.2 billion IPO while others like e-commerce firm Flipkart and ride-hailing start-up Ola are exploring listing options. One venture investor previously told CNBC that 2021 would “herald the beginning of a new era for the Indian start-up ecosystem,” with a number of significant IPOs to come.

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