Should your business prepare for coronavirus?

Coronavirus is on the way.

It’s easy to play down the risk of an outbreak – for many it’ll be no worse than any other winter virus and the reporting of it has been sensationalist, to say the least – but the government today said that the UK is weeks away from an outbreak, which could see the country grind to a halt as people are either off sick or ‘self-isolating’ to curb the spread.

Here’s how to prepare your business and employees for an outbreak.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a family of viruses that cause illnesses of varying degrees, from the common cold to the much more serious Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

COVID-19 is the name for the latest strain of the disease.

Conronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people, and the latest oubreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans – hence the panic.

For more information, check out the World Health Organisation website.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Common signs of infection include the following:

  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties.

In more severe cases, infection can cause:

  • Pneumonia
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome,
  • Kidney failure
  • Death.

What if you have coronavirus COVID-19 symptoms?

Stay at home for seven days if you have either:

  • a high temperature.
  • a new, continuous cough.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital, as you could pass the illness on to other, more vulnerable people.

You don’t need to contact NHS 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.

Only call NHS 111 or use the NHS online coronavirus service service if:

  • you feel you can’t cope with your symptoms at home.
  • your condition gets worse.
  • your symptoms don’t get better after seven days.

How to prevent coronavirus infection

To help prevent the spread of infection, you should always:

  • Wash your hands regularly hand washing
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
  • Thoroughly cook meat and eggs
  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Why do you need to worry about coronavirus?

Since the first reports of an outbreak in China, this new strain of coronavirus has now spread to more than 70 countries, striking down more than 89,000 people and causing more than 3,000 deaths.

For a breakdown of where is most affected and whether or not it’s safe to travel, check out this piece from the New York Times.

If you’re still wondering why you should be worried, consider that a growing number of governments have already closed borders and imposed quarantines, while some companies have imposed travel bans – remember, conference calling is a good way to stay in touch if you can’t physically catch up with people for any reason.

In short, the human and economic impacts on businesses have already been stark, and are set to get worse. The UK government has already said we’re ‘weeks away’ from a serious outbreak and is considering putting emergency legislation in place to stop large crowds from gathering in any one area.

The risk of the epidemic spreading across the UK should ask as a wake-up call for all business owners to carefully review their risk management strategies, policies, and procedures.

If your current policies aren’t as robust as they could be, now is the time to take another look and make sure measures are in place to help stop the spread of infection – which could include making staff work from home, wherever possible – and also respond to it, in the event your workplace suffers an outbreak.

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