Practical continuity for Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Coronavirus microscopic

By Matthew Harper, Resilient Results

There is no doubt that December – January has been a tough time for Canberra and surrounding area business.  With the fire and storm seasons still with us, we need to think about some practical steps we can take for the impact of Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV).

In previous coronavirus outbreaks (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), human-to-human transmission occurred through droplets, contact and fomites (something that carries the disease from the host to the uninfected).  The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified that the transmission modes of 2019-nCoV can be similar.

Fortunately, the practices for preventing the spread of 2019-nCoV are similar to most flu season precautions.  The following WHO suggested steps are easily implemented into business and home and can have a huge impact on the spread of both this disease and more common infections.

  1. Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
  2. Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
  3. Avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.
  4. People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands).
  5. Within healthcare facilities, enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments.

Source WHO Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV) Situation Report – 9

Easy practical steps almost all businesses can take are:

  • Revise your policy for people attending work with any form of respiratory infection. If people are sick, get them to stay at home and avoid transmission.  If they can work from home, encourage them to do so until they improve or need to seek medical attention.
  • Enforce good hand washing practices in toilets, kitchens and common areas. Simple tools such as hand sanitising stations in corridors and making it a requirement to use the station when you pass it can have significant results.
  • Ensure your workplace has tissues and bins which can be used if someone is coughing and sneezing. Have cough and sneeze hygiene signs and encourage compliance.
  • Don’t share phones, utensils, mugs, towels, pens. Anything that goes near a face should not be shared.
  • Ask customers to comply with the same standards you set for your staff, but provide the tools. If you are running a business where you directly serve customers (particularly food service), provide tissues and sanitiser stations.  If there are common use surfaces, wipe them regularly and practice good hygiene with the cleaning cloths.

Some other practical steps that can be taken:

  • Consider your response to a downturn in business if people start avoiding crowds. If you can receive orders by phone and arrange open air pick ups, you may capture a new market.
  • Be careful with social media comments and traditional media statements. This is a sensitive issue and commentary can be far reaching.
  • Discuss with your staff the impact of school, sport or transport disruptions. How can you work together to solve the problem.

While these steps cannot guarantee avoiding 2019-nCoV, sensible continuity arrangements have the ability to save your business and your family.  If you have a business continuity plan, now is the time to review it.

About the Author

Matthew Harper is the Managing Director of Resilient Results, a Canberra based crisis and continuity consultancy and member of the Canberra Business Chamber.  Matthew has been involved in emergency management for over 30 years which has included time with the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre as well as planning for the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Resilient Results provides tailored business continuity services for all sizes of businesses, from initial consultations to planning and exercising services.

Contact us via email at or 0438 430 931

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Image credit: Canberra Times