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| 3 minutes read

How is the new Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) impacting mobile employees and global mobility programs?

By now, you have probably seen many of the headlines and breaking news stories from the last few weeks related to the new Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated in Wuhan, China.

One very interesting sub-story relates to a Canadian start-up tech company named BlueDot that uses an AI-based system and was one of the first to report on the virus and predict the spreading of it. Neowin reports that, "With access to global airline ticketing data, the firm correctly predicted the spread of the virus from Wuhan to Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo in the days following its initial appearance." Amazing! 

So, what do global mobility teams need to be doing? Tracking the ongoing headlines, breaking news stories and staying alert to what is happening on this global health situation is a critical first step. There are many great sources for quality information. 

Here's a start to keep you up to date on the latest:

What is coronavirus, the mystery illness sweeping through part of China

CNN Live Updates on Coronavirus

World Health Organization: Coronavirus

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Updates and Announcements

Drum Cussac, an organization that helps companies track and assess global security events in real-time, has raised their severity alert level to high. They encourage travelers to take the necessary measures to protect themselves from the virus and to avoid contact with potential carriers of the disease. They describe the pneumonia-like symptoms as similar to those of the common cold, including fever, dry cough, sore throat, problems breathing, headache and body aches. Travelers experiencing these symptoms should seek care from a medical professional. 

Plus Relocation has contacted our global partners in locations that are being impacted to gather first-hand knowledge of what is happening on the ground. We are also connecting with all relocating employees and assignees moving to or from the APAC region, or to any of the other reported locations that have been impacted, to assess their situation, provide support and offer some basic advice related to staying healthy and safe:

  • Do not travel if you are sick and avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets and products that come from animals (like uncooked meat).
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Older travelers and those with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe diseases and should discuss travel to Wuhan and other affected locations with their healthcare provider.
  • Wear a mask if you have a runny nose or cough. If you do not have a mask, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Monitor health for two weeks after travel and seek medical help immediately if you become ill.

Recent reports are warning that the virus can be spread from people not showing any symptoms. With the death toll continuing to rise (80, at the time of me writing this) and the virus continuing to spread to more cities and countries, current travel restrictions are affecting around 30 million people in 15 cities in China alone, with likely more to follow. Businesses in China are to remain closed until February 9 and schools closed until February 17.

How are you handling this as a company and global mobility program?

Plus recommends that global mobility teams and mobile employees monitor global travel restrictions and stay tuned to local media for information regarding the situation. We urge mobile employees to adhere to any advisories or directives issued by local authorities. We also recommend changing travel plans that include locations that have been impacted and to stay alert for news of new cases discovered in other locations. 

Here are a few other actions that could be considered:

  • Permit more remote work to avoid having people exposed to the virus. Encourage those not feeling well to work from home.
  • Reinforce good hygiene: Stock up and provide hygiene materials at work - hand sanitizers, no-touch thermometers, maybe even masks.

For more ideas if you have employees/expatriates in China, read this article from the National Law Review, "The Coronavirus Outbreak’s Impact on International Employers".

As companies around the world monitor the situation and prepare for this to become a global epidemic, many are imposing their own travel restrictions. Be sure to have a direct line of communication within your company to help deliver and reinforce those internal directives. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide updates to our clients and their mobile employees as needed. 

Death toll rises to 25From CNN's Steven Jiang China’s National Health Commission says 25 people have died from the Wuhan coronavirus with 830 people infected, as of midnight Friday morning local.  Twenty-four of the deaths were in Hubei province, and 1 Hebei.


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