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In a conference call on 10 March, speakers from Public Health England (PHE) and Deloitte offered valuable comments on progress of the Covid-19 outbreak and the response so far.

A brief summary is provided here:

  • The danger with this particular virus (SARS-Cov-2) is that it is a new virus with no natural human immunity. While the most vulnerable age group is the elderly, the fact that this group may need intensive hospital treatment means that routine medical treatment for younger people may be delayed. This may have a polarising effect on the population.
  • As the virus has a relatively mild impact on most of the population, there is expected to be considerable under-reporting of the disease and hence the outbreak may to be more wide spread than initially reported.
  • Experiences in other countries may not necessarily repeated in the UK. The severe outbreak in South Korea is largely attributable to a large religious sect that failed to notify the authorities in time. Japan, which has a mixed urban and rural population like the UK, has managed to contain the spread there.
  • The incubation of the virus is 5-7 days which is relatively long. This can mask the actual scale of the infection. (PHE estimation is that in the worst case 80% of the UK population will be infected with 50% of cases recorded over a three-week window and 95% over a nine-week window.)
  • Authoritative information on the outbreak can be obtained from and A new e-contract tracing system is soon to be launched. General advice to business can be found here.
  • Travel restrictions to specific countries are listed here. This list is regularly updated.
  • There is no recommendation to undertake any extra cleaning measures or to use high-strength disinfectants. Normal cleaning regimes should be maintained.
  • A summary of the presentation can be found here.
  • According to a 2015 report by Deloitte titled Willing and Able: Building a Crisis Resilient Workforce, around 55% of those able to report to work do so in the case of a pandemic. This means that 45% will be absent even though not ill. (The mortality rate of a disease has an influence on this figure.) Such rate of absenteeism should be included in corporate planning. Deloitte estimates that absenteeism may vary according the disease severity e.g. 30-40% (high), 25-20% (medium) or 10-15% (low).
  • Overall recommendations from the Deloitte report are:
  1. Make sure people understand the importance of their role and of their organisation.
  2. Adopt an inclusive approach to planning.
  3. Challenge and address assumptions about employee willingness to return to work.
  4. Recognise risk perception as a key determinant.
  5. Embed employees’ concerns and behaviours into crisis planning.
  6. Educate employees on actual risk.
  7. Provide accurate, authoritative information during a crisis.
  8. If remote access is key to your contingency planning, make sure it will work when you need it.
  9. Provide medical incentives to report to work.
  10. Provide practical support and appropriate psychological care.
  11. Focus on logistical support to essential staff.

For further reading, please visit our Knowledge Hub.

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