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Considerations for business and risk managers during the Coronavirus/CoVid19 outbreak

The latest position in the UK in respect of CoVid19 can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public. The risk to individuals remains low and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Below is some guidance from senior risk managers. Credit to: Senior IRM member from a Charitable Health Foundation

What issues does the coronavirus raise that risk managers should consider, e.g. for supply chains, employees, the risk it may spread?

  • Overseas travel especially to Far East
  • Impact of airlines stopping flights if staff overseas already
  • Visits here from overseas visitors especially from affected countries – how to deal with that
  • Keeping staff informed without being alarmist
  • Encouraging good hygiene practice
  • Confirming people can work from home as much as possible if required
  • Confirm service partner business continuity plans

 

What practical steps can they take now - ie to keep the board informed, mitigate risks to staff, supply chains and reputation? 

  • All the leadership team are briefed and being kept up-to-date with any developments
  • A ‘monitoring’ incident management team set up
  • Asked all departments to review and refresh their local plans, including service partners
  • Refreshing remote working plans with IT
  • Send out travel advice updates to staff especially in respect of China and surrounding countries – updated as things change
  • Risk assessing meetings and conferences in case any higher risk visitors expected e.g Chinese  
  • Monitor sickness levels more closely

 

If the WHO declares an emergency, should they escalate their response? Should they plan for the worst (hope for the best)?

We have taken as the basis for our thinking the WHO 6 phases of influenza pandemic in the absence of a coronavirus specific threat level and the 4 level UK Alert level that was developed for the same purpose.  From that we have broadly split out risk phases into:

  • Potential heightened alert (where we are now; there is the potential but nothing confirmed in UK, but travel/visitors affected)
  • Absenteeism increasing (infection proven in UK with some spread) – need to respond to reduced staffing, illness, enhanced hygiene etc
  • Need for closure of buildings/staff at home – responding to potential school closures, travel disruption and people unwilling to come in and/or ill. We have plans in place to close the building with skeleton staff or even with no staff

A further commentator added the following important points for consideration:

  • Care for and repatriation of staff in China.
  • Keep updated on and follow FCO travel advice in their travel guidance, not just for China.
  • Remind staff of good hygiene practice, which is applicable at all times to prevent flu etc. anyway, e.g. regular and thorough hand washing
  • Be alert to illnesses occurring, especially if there are known visits/contacts with China, and should there be confirmed occurrences in the UK, following Public Health England advice.
  • Review contingency  plans for sustained staff shortages (extended working from home etc.) in the event of a major outbreak in the UK and disruption to overseas travel if that impacts on critical business activities.  Bear in mind that staff with caring responsibilities may be impacted and unable to come to work even if they don’t get the virus, e.g. in the event of schools being closed, close family illnesses, etc.
  • Review supply chain exposures and contingency plans, e.g. is there a major reliance on goods from China (and any other affected countries in the future) which could be disrupted from outbreaks, restrictions to travel, etc.
  • Monitor official advice: guidance can be found on www.gov.uk/coronavirus

 

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