Coronavirus and other Emerging Risks

Helen Dann
Helen Dann
1 February 2020

It would be hard to miss coverage of the Coronavirus. This infectious disease appeared in December 2019, at a local seafood market in Wuhan, China. In just a month, almost 10,000 people had been infected with 213 deaths. Cases have been reported in 22 countries – and this number continues to increase. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a Global emergency.

China responded rapidly to the threat by locking down the central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, imposing transport restrictions, closing tourist sites (such as the National Museum of China, Forbidden City, Beijing Olympic Stadium and parts of the Great Wall of China), and banning mass gatherings. Impressively, the government built two new hospitals in days.

The impact of this new virus became apparent during the Lunar New year, the most important holiday in China. This time for family, fireworks, festivities and food is also the time of the largest human migration with 3 billion journeys to travel home in time for the New Year's Eve dinner.

As a result of the containment measures that include locking down cities, curtailing local and international travel, restricting social and sporting gatherings and extending the holiday, family reunions are not happening and business commerce has been slowed and, in some circumstances, stopped completely.

This isn’t the first time national, regional and global economies have slowed. The 2003 SARS outbreak cost countries more than $40 billion. Due to the ever-increasing interconnection of supply chains, it’s likely that the Coronavirus will have a far greater impact.

So, what can executives, including risk professionals, do about Coronavirus? Here are five things you can do today to prepare your company for other emerging risks.

  1. Review and update compliance needs
    Past outbreaks, like SARS, saw many companies include pandemics in their business continuity plans. Now is a good time to review your plans, reviewing, creating, testing and updating as needed. Use a cross-functional team to ensure coverage, and be pragmatic and proportionate with any measures you identify.


  2. Communicate now
    Don’t wait to let your teams know the plans you have agreed. Share the information openly and regularly. Ensure communication is clear and timely with defined responsibilities. Validate that contact details for your team are correct.


  3. Look outside your walls
    Are your partners, suppliers and customers potentially impacted? What steps are they taking to protect themselves? What impact will there be on you if their plans fail?


  4. Get help
    Look in detail at your insurance cover, specifically Employers Liability, Business Interruption and Business Travel Insurance.


  5. Watch out
    Keep a close eye on the spread of the outbreak, and be ready to communicate fast and enact your plans at the appropriate time. Monitor for other emerging risks that may come as a result of Coronavirus such as deflation, civil unrest and erosion of global supply chains.

What about other emerging risks?

On February 26, 2020, we are hosting a webinar on the 10 emerging risks that all companies should be watching closely in 2020. To register, click here.

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