Due to the substantial interest in NEI’s “Coronavirus Update” sent Friday, 24 January, we are providing information on the various actions we see our global clients taking as the Coronavirus spreads across Asia and the rest of the world.
Situation Update as of 30 January: (updated 2/3/2020)
- In China, 17,302 cases of the virus have been confirmed with 361 deaths
- Outside of China, 186 cases have been confirmed with one death in the Philippines. People are falling ill in Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam - never having visited China
- Nearly 60 million people are under partial or full travel restrictions in China; the U.S., Japan, and several other countries are organizing flights through the government to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan
- Numerous airlines around the world have announced plans to reduce the number of flights operating to China or stop flying to the country entirely, such as Germany's Lufthansa airline, which has canceled all flights to and from China until 9 February
- Other airlines are offering customers refunds on flights to China
Various Actions Global Companies are Now Taking
NEI encourages companies to take a proactive, advice-based approach to formulate the best plan for each unique situation. We have been in collaboration with numerous client medical directors, internal security departments and global mobility stakeholders to develop initial guidelines for the current situation.
The symptoms of the Coronavirus are similar to other respiratory diseases, including flu and the common cold, so the first questions that should be asked include:
- Have you travelled in the last two weeks to a high-risk area?
- Have you been in contact with someone who has travelled to a high-risk area?
If the answer to either of the above questions is YES and the employee is experiencing any of the following symptoms within 10-14 days of such contact, they should seek medical assistance, according to the World Health Organization (WHO.int):
- Feeling tired
- Difficulty breathing
- A high temperature
- A cough and/or sore throat
If the answer to both of the above questions is NO, there are a variety of steps companies are taking – ranging from cautionary to more strict steps, including evacuation – at each company’s discretion per its business environment, corporate culture and unique situations. These include, but are not limited to:
- Placing a HOLD until further notice on various situations involving the transit of employees/families to and from China for:
- New assignments
- Scheduled repatriations, depending on the locations, although some clients are continuing with repatriations at employee/family and client discretion
- Asking travelers to STAY where they are:
- Having employees currently in China or who have just traveled from China to self-quarantine themselves in their residence for a period of 10-14 days if they feel they might have been exposed
- Business travelers in the APAC region, while on assignment in China, should not return to their China location and discuss where to go with their company’s health, security and human resources departments
- Employees who are on home leave from China assignments should stay and work in the home leave location. If the employees were on leave in another country, having them remain in place and providing Temporary Living accommodations until it is deemed appropriate to return to China
- Restricting travel to, from or within China of any non-essential staff, including the cancelation of all spouse / children family visit trips to employees in China
- REMIND employees of potential challenges:
- Those in the middle of destination visits or settling in trips with Destination Service Providers (DSPs) may be delayed by local China travel restrictions and closures
- Area tours will likely avoid crowded areas and may include drive-by visits of locations that are usually walking tours with DSPs, such as medical facilities and wet markets
- Delays of shipments and delivery of household goods were already experienced by the extended public holiday and the outbreak will likely further impact ports and related services
No two companies are alike and the approaches to the outbreak will vary significantly between companies. Some are evacuating employees/families back to their home country.
Lastly, some good advice from International SOS who recommends that companies not look at this virus as a single, isolated event, but to set an overall policy related to all types of infectious disease-related issues as part of their disaster recovery plans.
NEI continues to monitor the situation as it progresses and share information updates as they become available. If you would like to discuss a plan of support for your traveling or on-assignment employees, please do not hesitate to reach out to your NEI representative or Mollie Ivancic, NEI’s VP, International Services.