The global Coronavirus pandemic “reaffirms the need to reinvent” BP as a net-zero energy company, the oil supermajor’s recently appointed CEO Bernard Looney has told his staff.

He said the impact of the virus on BP was causing “two major issues [to] come together at once”; one a threat to the health of its over 70,000 employees, and another “on the financial front”, writing on LinkedIn after briefing personnel.

“Some people have also questioned how the current circumstances affect our purpose and net-zero ambition. I can understand why they might ask that,” said Looney, who in a statement made when he took on the top job at BP last month said that the “world … need[ed] a rapid transition to net-zero … [as] the carbon budget is finite and running out fast”.

“But to me, I think what is going on now only reaffirms the need to reinvent our company. And we will.”

“Coronavirus continues to spread globally. All of us are impacted in one way or another. On the financial front, we’ve seen steep falls in stock markets and commodity prices – which have particularly affected those of us in the oil industry,” said Looney.

But he stressed it was “not a time to panic” instead saying it was “a time for calm, deliberate action – for both the health of our people and the health of our company”.

BP, like many companies, including Recharge’s parent, Norwegian media group NHST, has instituted a policy of teleworking, banning meetings and travel except for those “involved in, or supporting, critical operations”.

When Looney took over the role of CEO at BP, which, after forays into wind and solar last decade, had retreated to a renewed focus on oil & gas exploration and production, he announced the company had the ambition”to reach net-zero emissions company by 2050or sooner.

“We expect to invest more in low carbon businesses — and less in oil and gas — over time,” he said at the time. “The goal is to invest wisely, into businesses where we can add value, develop at scale, and deliver competitive returns.”

BP said it will “set out more information” on its strategy and short-term plans at a capital markets day in September.

Novel Coronavirus Corvid-19 was declared a global pandemic last week by the World Heath Organization, with over 142,000 cases now confirmed worldwide and over 5,000 deaths, at last count.