The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), officially named as Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), continues to spread around the globe. This continues to present a significant challenge to health care organisations, businesses and of course to the general population.
Although there is a noticeable absence of reported cases in certain regions of the world including Africa it is in the best interests of every business to ensure that they are taking sensible precautions to minimise and mitigate the effects.
The aim of this guidance is to provide businesses with the information required to prepare, protect and cope with the outbreak, whilst providing practical suggestions for preparation activities. It focuses on the following key areas:
- What do we know about Covid-19?
- Should you be concerned?
- How can your business prepare?
- What are the symptoms?
- How to protect yourself and prevent the spread of infection
- What to do if you or a colleague are infected
- Can coronavirus be treated or cured?
What do we know about Covid-19?
Covid-19 is a new virus which was first identified in December 2019 after the initial outbreak in Wuhan City, China. As this is a new virus there is a lack of immunity in the population, at time of print 82 countries and territories are affected, with over 95,500 confirmed cases including 3,286 deaths reported, these numbers are predicted to grow.
Coronaviruses are a common family of viruses known across the world. Some coronaviruses cause the common cold; others cause diseases which are much more severe such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Should you be concerned?
The extensive press coverage of the situation does suggest a level of hysteria but there is no need to panic when you consider the threat with a balanced perspective. There is however due cause for concern and we should prepare and react accordingly.
Four out of five people, who contract the virus, will experience mild symptoms. Severe symptoms only tend to appear in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term health conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease. Examination of data by the WHO suggests that:
- 80% develop mild symptoms
- 14% develop severe symptoms
- 6% become critically ill
- At present mortality rates are between 1-2%
The lifespan of most respiratory viruses are dependant on a number of factors including:
- The type of surface the virus is on
- Whether it is exposed to sunlight
- Differences in temperature and humidity
- Exposure to cleaning products
The hope is that the spread of the virus will reduce as temperatures increase but as this is a new strain the effect of temperature is not yet known.
Comparison to Seasonal Flu
To provide a comparison and some context, approximately one billion people contract seasonal influenza per annum. These outbreaks result in between 290,000 and 650,000 fatalities, as the severity changes each year.
How can your business prepare?
We recommend that employers and businesses advise their staff effectively and take the following steps to prepare:
- Nominate a Planning Leader – This person should be the company focal point for all preparation activity. They should be empowered to rally the resources required to advise the business in order to prepare and react as the situation develops.
- Conduct an Impact Assessment – The UK government is planning for the eventuality that up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of the epidemic. Consider the direct and indirect impact to your business should these ‘worse case scenarios’ arise and establish methods and strategies to mitigate the likely effects. Consider your critical business processes and ask questions such as: What is the impact to your customers?
- How can you maintain productivity?
- Can staff work from home?
- What is the impact to your supply chain?
- Do you have sufficient material or financial resources to survive the disruption?
- How will the situation affect your competitors?
- Could any part of the situation present an opportunity for your business?
- How will the wider impact on public services impact your business?
- Review Crisis Management/Business Continuity Plans – This should be directed by the Planning Leader to ensure all plans, policies and processes are ‘fit-for-purpose’ and can meet the developing challenges presented by a potential virus pandemic. This should include a communications plan which includes all internal and external stakeholders.
- Establish reliable information sources – Identify and utilise official, trusted information sources to maintain your awareness of the spread and suggested course of action to react appropriately as the situation changes. Use this changing information to dynamically reassess your plans.
- Examples of international sources include: WHO – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
- CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
- As well as government sources for a local/national perspective
- Kenyan Ministry of Health – http://www.health.go.ke/
- UK Gov – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
- Get support – If you require specialist support to ensure your business is prepared effectively please contact Castor Vali:
- Email: email@example.com
- Or call our Group Head Office on +44 (0)118 900 1406
What are the Symptoms?
Based on current evidence, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, a high temperature and, in severe cases, difficulty in breathing. The incubation period of COVID-19 is between 2 to 14 days. This means that if a person remains well 14 days after contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, they have not been infected.
How to protect yourself and prevent the spread of infection
Although it is not yet known exactly how this virus spreads, health agencies recommend preventative methods similar to those for other viruses. The following information should be shared with all personnel:
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds.
- Always wash your hands when you get home or into work.
- Use hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing – do not use your hands.
- Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands after.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands are not clean – if your hands touch a surface contaminated by the virus, this could transfer it into your body.
- Don’t get too close to people coughing, sneezing or with a fever – they can propel small droplets containing the virus into the air – ideally, keep 1m (3ft) away.
- Based on general guidance face masks are not recommended for the general public as a form of protection as there is no evidence of benefits outside of healthcare environments. However, facemasks are recommended for symptomatic individuals or as advised by health professionals.
The following infographic provides further information:
What to do if you or a colleague are infected
Search for information from your national health care website so you can follow the advice of your local health care authority. The following advice is based on UK National Health Service (NHS) guidelines and is for information only if you reside outside of the UK.
If a person has symptoms, but has not been to an effected area, they should consult local medical advice before returning to work. In the UK, NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that will advise you.
Anyone experiencing symptoms, even if mild, after travelling from an infected area should self-isolate.
- If in the workplace they should move to an area that is at least two metres from others.
- The individual who is unwell should call NHS 111 (or local equivalent) and explain the details.
- Whilst waiting for medical assistance they should adhere to the advice above to prevent further spread.
If you are asked to self-isolate, you should:
- stay at home
- not go to work or public places
- not use public transport or taxis
- ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
- try to avoid visitors to your home (other than family or friends dropping off food)
You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection. For more information https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/
Can coronavirus be treated or cured?
Right now, treatment relies on the basics – keeping the patient’s body going, including breathing support if necessary, until their immune system can fight off the virus. The work to develop a vaccine is under way and it is hoped there will be human trials before the end of the year. Hospitals are also testing anti-viral drugs to see if they have an impact.
For more information or support
If your business requires specialist support to ensure you are prepared effectively, please contact us:
Or call our Group Head Office on +44 (0)118 900 1406