Planes, trains and coronavirus ...

The news of the emergence of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan in China is causing significant concern around the world. Confirmed cases demonstrate its spread to other countries in the Far East and elsewhere. Cities are in quarantine, travel restrictions are in place and enforced hygiene measures show that an effective response to this outbreak is of the utmost importance. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared this outbreak to be a global health emergency.

The main concerns are the welfare of staff, students or other personnel returning from affected areas who may have been exposed to infection. Consider what advice you should be giving to them and how to manage subsequent absenteeism.

Think about how travel restrictions, both now and in the future, could affect not only the movement of people, but disrupt supply chains. What proportion of goods currently imported from affected regions are vital to the delivery of your product or service? Should you be thinking about stockpiling critical spares or finished goods for example, or sourcing supplies from alternative locations temporarily? On the other side of the coin, could travel restrictions impact exports.

Research is underway to establish how the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, could develop in terms of severity and rate of infection. International travel enables a new virus, to which people have little or no immunity, to spread very quickly with the potential to become a pandemic causing mass illness worldwide.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

This is the time to be brushing off and updating your pandemic business continuity plans or if you do not have one, putting together an action plan to understand how your organisation would respond to a major outbreak.

Identify your critical activities and work out how these can be managed taking account of not just a reduced workforce, but also travel restrictions, disrupted global supply chains, changes in working practices and assess the consequences of these to maintaining continuity of services and products. Determine appropriate strategies that can be adopted to respond to different phases of a pandemic.

A suggested worse case scenario would be to plan for up to 25-50% absenteeism, based on the cumulative impacts of illness, holidays, potential school closures and self-absenting.

Teed has worked with many organisations helping them to develop pandemic plans and was heavily involved in clients’ planning to address the possible effects of the swine flu H1N1 virus in 2009.

Find out more information about Teed’s pandemic planning services here


Useful Information Websites

World Health Organisation

UK Government

US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control


  • Date: 17th February 2020
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