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Coronavirus advice for employers


The UK government has declared coronavirus a “serious and imminent threat” to public health, as it announced new powers to fight its spread. Under the measures, people can now be forcibly quarantined and will not be free to leave.

However, the Department of Health has added that the risk to individuals is low.

At time of writing [11 February 2020], there have been more than 40,000 cases of the virus globally, mostly in China. The number of people known to be infected in the UK is eight. The total number of deaths across China’s 31 provinces is now 1,016, officials said.


What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new respiratory illness that has not previously been seen in humans.

Where do Coronaviruses come from?

Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals but some of them are also known to affect humans. After they have infected humans, they can eventually be transmitted to humans.

What is the mode of transmission? How (easily) does it spread?

Because it’s a new illness, it is not known exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread by respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale. While animals are the source of the virus, this virus is now spreading from one person to another (human-to-human transmission). At time of writing, there is currently not enough epidemiological information to determine how easily and sustainably this virus is spreading between people.

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

The main signs of infection are fever (high temperature) and a cough as well as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

How to protect yourself

The NHS advises the following measures to help stop germs like coronavirus spreading:

  • Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell;
  • If you have arrived back from China or specified areas in the last 14 days, follow the advice on this page for returning travellers.

Coronavirus travel Advice

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK nationals to leave China where possible. If the situation continues to escalate the pressure on the Chinese health system may intensify, and it may also become harder for people to travel.

Advice to travellers returning from China

Travellers returning from Wuhan and Hubei Province, China

For those returning from Wuhan or Hubei Province in the last 14 days, the NHS advise:

  • Staying indoors and avoid contact with other people
  • Calling NHS 111 to tell them of your recent travel to the city. If you’re in Northern Ireland, call 0300 200 7885.

This advice should be followed, even if there are no symptoms of the virus.

If you get a cough, a high temperature, or you feel short of breath, continue to follow this advice. Do not leave your house.

Travellers returning from other parts of China and specified areas

If you get a cough, high temperature or feel short of breath within 14 days of returning from:

  • Other parts of China, including Macao and Hong Kong;
  • Thailand;
  • Japan;
  • Republic of Korea;
  • Taiwan;
  • Singapore;
  • Malaysia.

You should:

  • Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people;
  • Call NHS 111 to tell them of your recent travel. If you’re in Northern Ireland, call 0300 200 7885.

The NHS stress that this advice should be followed, even if symptoms are mild.

What this means in practice

This means staying at home for 14 days after arriving from Wuhan or Hubei Province (or other parts of China or specified areas if you have symptoms) and not going to work, school or public areas.

Try to avoid having visitors to your home; however, it is OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food.

While the risk to the UK population remains low, these steps are recommended to limit the potential spread of infection.

Protecting travelling workers

IOSH has issued some advice covering key actions that organisations can take to manage traveller health, safety and wellbeing:

  • To effectively manage travel risk, organisations must ensure they have proportionate and robust policies, procedures and controls in place. Communicate them to all relevant parts of the organisation, providing information, instruction and training as appropriate
  • Consider whether the travel is necessary: can the same result be achieved with video conferencing, for example, sparing the organisation and traveller the risk, time, cost and environmental impact? Situations such as the coronavirus outbreak in China as well as geopolitical conflicts, terrorism and natural disasters can change rapidly, potentially leaving travellers stranded or quarantined. It is therefore important to make ‘fly/no fly’ decisions based on best available guidance such as government travel advice
  • If travel is deemed necessary then organisations need to effectively but proportionately manage the risk, with controls identified and implemented that reflect the nature and severity of the risk. Such controls should be identified through a travel risk assessment incorporating not only the travel, accommodation and work itself but also the traveller’s physical and mental capabilities. The travellers themselves should be involved in this process
  • Organisations must always know where their workers are and where they are going. Some travel management systems provide tracking and alert functions, and there are also products utilising GPS in either discrete equipment or smartphone apps which can provide live location tracking
  • If travelling workers become involved in an incident or emergency, organisations need to have a means by which to provide support for them. Considering issues such as number of travellers, international time differences and weekend travel it is potentially cost and resource-effective to implement a travel assistance scheme such as those provided by business insurers or commercial organisations. Most schemes and business travel insurance packages offer a 24/7 helpline which triggers support services for the traveller, providing assistance with medical treatment and repatriation due to injuries and illness as well as helping with lost documents, stolen money and other common travel-related problems
  • Organisations should also provide relevant information, instruction and training to travellers, the nature and extent of which should be identified during the risk assessment process
  • Organisations should remember their travellers’ wellbeing. According to a white paper by International SOS, frequent international travel has been shown to have negative effects on both physical and mental health, with situations such as a disease outbreak providing further sources of concern.

Further information

The World Health Organization also has a wealth of information available; in particular ‘coronavirus myth busters’ which is a useful page of information, addressing common concerns about the virus outbreak.



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