What is the coronavirus and where did it come from?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are mainly spread amongst animals and birds. In humans, they are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold. The viruses usually cause self-limited upper respiratory tract infection.
On 31 December 2019 a cluster of pneumonia cases were reported by the World Health Organization in Wuhan, China. On 7 January 2020 the cause was identified as a new novel coronavirus.The virus is most probably from wild animals held captive in food markets in China.
The disease caused by the virus is now known as COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
The main route of transmission is respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, drip, or exhale. They travel only short distances before settling, usually less than 1 meter. This is NOT the same as airborne transmission, where the virus is transmitted while suspended in air for prolonged periods of time.
COVID-19 is also transmitted via direct contact, i.e. touching of an ill person or contaminated surface, and is excreted in stool. The incubation period is 14 days (95th percentile = 12.5 days).
What are the workplace consequences of COVID-19?
More than 98% of people who contract COVID-19 recover.
The health consequences of the COVID-19 infections predict the workforce consequences:
- 80% of people have a mild to moderate disease similar to a cold or flu, and will require time off work
- 15-20% of people require hospitalisation and will require extensive time off work
- Overall, 2% of people die, with loss of staff and skills
These direct consequences will impact directly on the workplace personnel, and other non-direct economic consequences should also be taken into consideration.
Business continuity and pandemic preparedness
Businesses should develop a continuity plan, and a pandemic preparedness plan, especially if the business is operated in more thanone location and more than one country. The aim is to ensure smooth business operations during a time of social change or crisis.
- Scenario planning with actions to take after suspected or confirmed cases
- Human resources planning with sickleave and absence arrangements
- Possible partnerships with local authorities and health facilities
How can we mitigate the risks?
There are 4 pillars of workplace risk mitigation:
- Educate and inform employees about the disease and the company approach to managing the risk
- Initiate and promote strategies to minimise the risk of transmission of the disease
- Early identification of the disease in the workplace
- Response to people identified as potential cases