Only a few weeks into 2020 and the topic concerning many people around the world is the China coronavirus outbreak.
Sometimes coined the Wuhan virus due to its origins in Wuhan, China, the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is one that is spreading quickly.
Over the course of the Lunar New Year, the number of confirmed cases reported by the WHO (World Health Organization) and Chinese authorities escalated. Quickly rising from 618 confirmed cases to now over 7000 cases with the number of deaths increasing from 17 to 170.
Quickly spreading, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has now classified the coronavirus as a serious public health threat.
More tests will be required to fully understand the Wuhan virus. Currently, the highest priority is to contain the virus outbreak and prevent sustained spreading.
Symptoms of the Wuhan Virus- What we Know so Far
According to the CDC, symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus may start appearing in as little as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
Those confirmed with the Wuhan virus have shown the following symptoms:
- shortness of breath
According to the CDC, People have responded differently to the coronavirus. Of the people confirmed with the 2019-nCoV infections, reported illnesses ranged from feeling mildly sick to being severely ill and dying.
The Wuhan virus is a rare strain of coronavirus capable of infecting humans like MERs and SARS. Found to have originated from animals in the initial pneumonia outbreak, there is growing evidence to support person-to-person transmission.
While the death rate is still lower than that of SARS, the coronavirus has shown a faster infection rate.
Looking at numbers reported in China alone, the number of confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus has already surpassed that of SARS in 2003 over the span of 9 months. As such, the public is advised to take extra precautions to maintain the situation.
HR Measures Against the Coronavirus Outbreak for Neighbouring Locations
As officials are still in the process are examining the China coronavirus, the CDC advises the public to take the following measures to prevent further spread.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
While face masks sales are skyrocketing, according to an article by Business Insider, they may not be an effective measure for preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Face masks, especially N95 respirators help prevent wearers from breathing in particles down to 0.3 microns in diameter. Meanwhile, the coronavirus measures 0.12 microns in diameter which suggests that it may be ineffective in preventing infection.
However, face masks are reported to help lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus via saliva or phlegm. So while not foolproof, there is some evidence that when used correctly, facemasks can slow the spread of airborne viruses.
Hong Kong Limiting Travels from Mainland China
On the 28th of January, Hong Kong issued restrictions limiting the number of mainland Chinese travelers into the territory as a measure of controlling the virus.
Cutting down 50% of flights and putting a ban on tourist visas for many travelers, officials are keen on preventing a wider spread of the Wuhan virus.
At the same time, the government also advises civil workers to work from home and stay away from offices until the end of the week.
Currently, in Hong Kong, there are 10 confirmed infections. To prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, business leaders and HR managers should consider flexible working arrangements and encourage personal hygiene measures.
Possible HR measures in the office:
- Use telecommunication as a temporary measure to limit in-person contact.
- Offer work-from-home arrangements to prevent crowding in office space and the potential spreading of the virus.
- The CDC currently recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel into China. As such, businesses should temporarily avoid sending employees into China.
To increase the uptake of healthy habits within the office, for workplaces that sponsor free flu shots, managers should take a lead in accepting the offer, encouraging others to follow suit.
Singapore on High Alert- Immediate Suspension of Travel Visas for Holders of PRC Passports Issued in Hubei
To manage the spreading of the Wuhan coronavirus, Singapore issued a press release imposing travel restrictions on those with PRC passports issued in Hubei.
From Jan 29, there will be no entry or transit through Singapore for:
- Visitors with recent Hubei travel history within the last 14 days
- Holders of PRC passports issued in Hubei
Those with PRC passports issued in Hubei will have an immediate suspension of:
- Issuance of all forms of new visas
- Previously issued a short-term and multiple-visit visa
- Visa-free transit facilities
Encourage Personal Hygiene
Companies should take extra steps to encourage personal hygiene in the office. This includes putting up public notices to encourage employees to properly wash their hands and disinfect in and out of the office.
Proper Communication of Working Arrangements
HR managers and business leaders should clearly communicate working arrangements internally and address any concerns of personal safety to help ease public unrest.
Stock up on Health Supplies
During this season, employers should be sure to stock up on health supplies including face masks and hand sanitisers for those at the office, to help prevent the virus from spreading.
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