Howard Feldman

OPINION | Coronavirus: SA about to face the pandemic head on

2020-03-11 14:02
Passengers wearing protective face masks arrive from Shenzhen in China, at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, on 2 March 2020. (Phill Magakoe, AFP)

Passengers wearing protective face masks arrive from Shenzhen in China, at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, on 2 March 2020. (Phill Magakoe, AFP)

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There is a sense of the country holding its collective breath as we wait for the storm to hit. Whereas we can’t know just how bad the situation will be, we do know that the country is about to face the pandemic head on, writes Howard Feldman

South Africa stands on the brink of a coronavirus outbreak.

At the time of writing, all confirmed cases involve people who have traveled back from Europe and who have returned to South Africa already infected.

What this means is that locally transmitted cases are still being incubated and that many are already harbouring the virus. 

In a matter of days, we can expect local numbers to increase significantly.  

Confirmed cases of local transmission will mark a shift in our approach to the virus and will likely cause a significant uptick in anxiety and stress.  

Although there is little value in panicking before it is necessary, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t start to consider how each of us might be impacted over the next month or so.  

Companies should start to consider protocols and contingencies and should inform both staff and clients in this regard.  

Simple measures should be taken within a company itself.

These might include:  

  • Asking that staff no longer shake hands. 
  • Provide hand sanitiser in key areas and invite people who enter the premises to use it.  
  • Raise hand washing awareness. 
  • Require staff members to take laptops and chargers home with them each evening, so that in the event of a quarantine situation arising, it would be easier to work from home.  
  • Increase premises cleaning frequency. 

Companies, like factories might want to consider separating divisions, to lessen the impact should a person in one division become ill.

And of course, they should encourage staff from coming to work if they are concerned about their health.  

There is tremendous value in updating clients as to contingency planning.

It us useful for them to be aware of how that company will be dealing with a more significant outbreak should one occur.

Can work be done remotely?

What type of delays can be expected?

It might be worthwhile to inform customers what the policy is with regard to travel, both local and international so that they can be clear on how it is being dealt with.  

Countries have reacted very differently to the pandemic.

Whereas Italy is now on complete lockdown, the UK continues to function as normally as possible.

Israel has taken a very conservative approach and now requires anyone entering the country to self-quarantine for 14 days and the US has managed to politicise the virus.

Russia seems to be keeping its numbers close to its chest and Iran’s death toll and numbers also seem suspicious.  

The information flow so far in South Africa has been strong and clear.

The NCID and government have set protocols in line with international standards and much thought and planning is evident.

Private hospitals have increased vigilance and screening, visitor numbers reduced in order to limit exposure to compromised patients.

What remains unsaid, is what the plan will be if the local number of sufferers grow exponentially.  

 Aside from Eskom, there is little else in the news in South Africa, and for good reason.

There is a sense of the country holding its collective breath as we wait for the storm to hit.

Whereas we can’t know just how bad the situation will be, we do know that the country is about to face the pandemic head on.

It is now, before it happens that we should consider our planning to make it as manageable as possible.  

- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


Read more on:    coronavirus  |  epidemic
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