The Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, with its flu-like symptoms, seems to be spreading worldwide. While the WHO has not yet declared an outbreak of Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), it seems only a matter of time before it becomes a global emergency.
Human-to-human transmission is occurring with several countries, including the UK, reporting suspect cases. With an estimated infection rate (R0) of 1.4-2.5, then it is inevitably going to spread to many more parts of the world by regular travellers. According to WHO, of confirmed cases, 25% are reported to be severe.
Actions by the Chinese authorities have been unprecedented. The shut-down of entire cities like Wuhan (population of 11 million) can be compared to the closure of a city the size of London. Other countries can be expected to undertake increasingly strident measures to stop the spread of the virus. The UK's Chief Medical Officer assesses the risk to the population as 'low' (an increase from 'very low'.)
Businesses should be ready to take their own precautions as part of their response and resilience measures. These (provided by Crisis Solutions) could include:
Monitoring Travel: Ensure you know who has recently travelled from infected areas. Consider asking them to voluntarily quarantine themselves if they have visited infected areas.
Monitoring Sickness: Ensure your people let you know if they don't feel well with similar systems to flu. Symptoms normally take 2-7 days to appear after infection. Ensure you keep in close communication with those off sick.
Communication and Education: Let your employees know what you are doing and why: they are more likely to buy-in to your measures. Consider issuing a fact sheet covering common questions they might ask you.
Reviewing Policies and Procedures: Make sure you know how you are going to deal with people who are affected, either directly or indirectly, if things get worse.
Preparing to Escalate: If infection is confirmed in your country / location then you should be prepared for your next steps. These might include:
- Increasing the frequency of cleaning the building
- Putting up hygiene reminder posters
- Reviewing working from home policy
- Asking people to voluntarily quarantine themselves at home if they are unwell
- Restricting face-to-face meetings
- Preventing hot-desking or sharing of phones
- Providing hand gel in wash rooms
- Ensuring your key suppliers are going to be able to continue to support you, or that you have alternative plans in hand
- Talking to customers and other stakeholders about the measures you are taking and why.