The coronavirus is the greatest threat to the world economy since the financial crisis, said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) today (3 March 2020) as governments and financial institutions pledged to take action.
The coronavirus is spreading from China to other regions causing human suffering and economic disruption. It is raising health concerns and therefore the risk of wider restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services, drops in business output and consumer confidence.
The Organistion for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Interim Outlook presents a best-case scenario in which the coronavirus is mostly contained and a worst-case “domino” prospect of contagion that’s more widespread.
In both cases, the OECD is recommending that governments take immediate action to limit the spread of the coronavirus, protect people and businesses and stimulate demand in the economy.
Even with the best-case scenario of limited outbreaks in countries outside China, the OECD predicts a marked slowdown in economic growth for the first half of 2020 as supply chains and commodities are hit, tourism drops and consumer confidence falters.
The OECD puts global growth at 2.4% for the whole year, compared to 2.9 % in 2019. It is then forecasting an increase to a modest 3.3% in 2021.
The UK Government has issued advice for businesses on how to cope with the threat of coronavirus, including what to do if one of your staff members becomes unwell in the workplace and believes that they may have been exposed to the virus.
If the person has travelled to China or another affected country recently, the unwell person must be moved to an area which is at least two metres away from other people.
If possible find a place where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office. Open the window for ventilation.
The individual who is unwell should call NHS 111 from their mobile, or 999 if an emergency (if they’re seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk) and say which country they have returned from in the last 14 days and describe their symptoms.
Health and safety
Whilst waiting for advice from NHS 111 or an ambulance, they should stay at least two metres from other people. They must avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and be advised to cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a bag or pocket then throw the tissue in the bin.
If they don’t have any tissues on them, they should cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow.
If they need the bathroom whilst waiting for medical assistance, they should use a separate bathroom if available.
The official government guidance also covers a range of subjects including certifying absence from work, handling post, packages or food from affected areas, cleaning offices where there are suspected or confirmed casts of the virus and disposing of rubbish including tissues.
Coronavirus does not currently have a cure and people are understandably fearful. Employers should keep a close eye on government guidance and be prepared for staff taking time off to care for others in addition to themselves, advises Mini Setty, a partner in employment law at Langleys Solicitors.
She adds: “Employers should be mindful of hysteria around this subject and should proceed with caution when faced by an employee refusing to attend work. It is advisable to discuss their concerns, reassure them on the measures being taken but ultimately to remind them that they could face disciplinary action if their continued refusal to attend work is unreasonable.”