The coronavirus is spreading across Europe right now. We have to follow the recommendations of the government authorities on the basic hygiene measures for preventing infection.
The characteristics of the virus
The coronavirus began in China in December 2019 and is now gradually spreading to all countries. In 80% of cases it leads to minor symptoms such as a slight temperature and a cough. It lasts for a few days. In 15% of cases people have breathing difficulties that can result in admittance to hospital, while in 5% of cases resuscitation care is required, and death may occur in 1% or 2% of the latter cases. These fatalities mostly occur among elderly people who are carriers of other diseases, including heart and lung afflictions.
The situation is therefore not dramatic, but we should be concerned about it.
Essential hygiene measures
The virus is transmitted through the air when infected people cough and also via their hands. The incubation period lasts for one to two weeks and people carrying the virus without knowing it may be contagious during this period.
Simple precautions should be systematically applied by companies.
Masks can be worn by infected people to protect others but they don’t protect healthy people. Wearing a mask on a permanent basis is therefore pointless.
First of all, you should wash your hands several times a day. You can use hydroalcoholic solutions, which are very effective within seconds, but they may be irritating if used too often. But soap also works if you build up a good lather and apply it for 30 seconds.
Employees who cough or sneeze should be told to put their nose and mouth in the crook of their elbow. When you blow your nose, you should use a tissue and place it in a closed bin. It is advisable not to touch your mouth, nose or eyes with your fingers.
Until the virus ceases to circulate you should stop shaking hands and refrain from kissing and hugging. Workstations, especially computer keyboards, should be regularly cleaned. Teleworking and teleconferencing should be encouraged whenever possible. At meetings, a distance of at least one metre should be maintained between each person.
These simple gestures are very efficient in terms of protection.
A company’s operations may be threatened or even interrupted in two circumstances. Firstly, cases may arise among employees who have to leave their workplace in the same way as colleagues who work at close quarters. Secondly, schools may be closed and parents may be obliged to stay at home.
Companies that already have a business continuity plan (BCP) should urgently update it and revise its operational feasibility.
Companies that don’t have a BCP should immediately draw one up, even if it only covers the minimum requirements. Guides exist for this purpose. The key aim is to identify the functions that are essential for business operations and can’t be guaranteed by remote working. A substitution chart must be developed for these functions, which may require training to be implemented as soon as possible.
Finally, it’s essential for a designated manager to track the progress of the pandemic twice a day. Only high-quality sites, particularly those of the Ministry of Health, the Government and Public Health Department, should be trusted.
Even if the chance of infection is limited, the concerns will remain. It’s vital for employees to feel sure that their company is on the alert and that it has a desire to protect their health as well as it can. Otherwise, trust and, with it, the performance of the business will be undermined.