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CORONAVIRUS

Jeff Bezos makes $24bn despite concerns for Amazon staff safety during Covid-19 outbreak

With customers relying on deliveries during the global pandemic, the Amazon founder’s worth has continued to climb

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw his wealth rise after his e-commerce firm posted record-breaking fourth-quarter profits. AP 
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw his wealth rise after his e-commerce firm posted record-breaking fourth-quarter profits. AP 

Despite warnings of a devastating global downturn amid the coronavirus pandemic and fears for staff at Amazon warehouses, the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos is continuing to increase his personal wealth.

Mr Bezos’s recent $24bn gains, made on back the internet retailer’s record stock price on Tuesday, has brought into stark relief the plight not only of his company’s employees but also the global economy as a result of the coronavirus.

The pandemic has brought the global economy to a near standstill and pushed almost 17 million Americans onto the unemployment rolls in the span of three weeks.

However, Mr Bezos and many of his wealthy peers have seen their fortunes recover in recent weeks, helped by the boost given to markets by unprecedented stimulus efforts by governments and central bankers.

With consumers stuck at home, they’re relying on Amazon more than ever. In the United States and in Europe, though, there are concerns of staff exposure to the virus.

On Wednesday, the online retailer announced it would close its warehouses in France until at least early next week after a court ordered it to limit deliveries to essential goods such as food and medical supplies.

In an internal document sent to French unions ahead of a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Amazon said it planned to close the country's six warehouses, which employ 10,000 permanent and interim workers, from April 16 until April 20 at least.

"The company is forced to suspend all production activities in all of its distribution centres in order to assess the inherent risks in the Covid-19 epidemic and take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of its employees," Amazon said.

During the suspension, Amazon will make use of a state partial unemployment scheme to pay its employees.

In a ruling on Tuesday, a French court said Amazon had to carry out a more thorough assessment of the risk of coronavirus contagion at its warehouses and should restrict its deliveries in the meantime, or face a fine.

At the same time, in the United States, coronavirus symptoms have been reported by staff from at least 19 Amazon warehouses. The company has been hit by high-profile protests at several of its facilities in America because of safety concerns.

Updated: April 15, 2020 10:06 PM

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