By James Crask ,
Consulting Director & Resilience Advisory Lead, UK & Ireland
With its rapid spread in a short period of time, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a public health emergency of international concern. It considers the outbreak "a high risk, regionally and globally." Multinational organisations should take actions now to protect their people and operations.
Coronaviruses can cause a variety of illnesses, from the common cold to highly severe diseases, such as Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Commonly exhibited symptoms in the current outbreak include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, according to the WHO; mild cases have resembled the flu. More than 14,000 cases across over 20 countries have been reported as of 2 February, including two in the UK, as have more than 300 deaths.
Wuhan's prominence as a tourist destination, a port city and transportation hub, and a regional centre for education and manufacturing has raised concerns about the outbreak's spread. Chinese authorities have restricted travel in Wuhan and surrounding cities. UK airports have begun entry screening of travellers from China and The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises against all travel to Hubei province and all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China.
Organisations with significant employee populations in China are at particular risk, while travel restrictions, supply chain disruptions, and employee absenteeism within vendors, suppliers, and other partners in-country could reduce productivity and efficiency for businesses headquartered elsewhere. Fears about the virus could also depress travel and tourism and adversely affect the global economy.
Organisations should review, test, and update critical business continuity, crisis management, and crisis communications plans. Consider the potential effects a worsening outbreak could have on your employees, revenue, suppliers, reputation, and more. Immediate actions to take include:
The impacts from a potentially worsening novel coronavirus outbreak could be severe, but taking these steps now can help you better prepare, plan, and protect your people and operations.