Businesses Warned as Outbreak Continues

As cases of the Coronavirus outbreak continue to grow both in number and in geography global businesses are being warned to prepare for the potential impact.

As of yesterday the number of people killed in China by the coronavirus had risen to 81, with almost 3,000 confirmed ill. In an attempt to halt the spread the country’s government has extended the national new year holiday by three days .

While most reported cases so far have been in China, others have been reported in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and the US, where it was announced that two further cases have been identified in California over the weekend.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has yet to declare a global public health emergency but director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has flown to Beijing in an effort to assist Chinese authorities to manage the outbreak.

Of greater concern is the statement by Chinese medial authorities that say the virus is contagious while those who have contracted the virus are asymptomatic with the period of one to 14 days before the carrier begins to show signs of infection.

Renata Elias, Consultant, with Marsh Risk Consulting’s Strategic Risk Practice said businesses needed to take immediate steps.

“Wuhan’s prominence as a tourist destination, a port city and transportation hub, and a regional centre for education and manufacturing has raised concerns that the outbreak could continue to spread, especially during the Lunar New Year holiday period,” she said. “Chinese authorities have restricted travel in Wuhan and elsewhere and cancelled some large holiday gatherings. Airports in several major cities in the US and elsewhere have begun entry screening of travellers from Wuhan and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends avoiding nonessential travel to the region; the State Department, meanwhile, recommends that travellers in China “exercise increased caution.”

“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.”

She added multinational organisations need to review, test, and potentially update critical plans related to business continuity, crisis management, and crisis communications.

“While examining existing plans, consider the potential effects a worsening outbreak could have on employees, revenue, suppliers, reputations, and more and work with other stakeholders to prepare accordingly,” she added.

A key issue is that of supply chain management.

“Identify operational and revenue impacts from potential disruptions to key suppliers and vendors,” explained Ms Elias. “Also consider the feasibility of sourcing goods, ingredients, and component parts from alternative suppliers.

“The impacts from a potentially worsening Wuhan coronavirus outbreak to your business could be severe, but taking steps now can help you better prepare, plan, and protect people and operations.”