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Covid-19 and advice to SMEs

4 March 2020

4D will be regularly updating our business resources page with the latest information and advice from the WHO and PHE, as well as adding our own insight and guidance into how to protect your staff and clients, while minimising disruption to your business.

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Facing the threat

A lot can happen in a week, and despite Covid-19, first being identified in China nearly three months ago, it wasn’t until the last week of February 2020 that the world finally realised the virus could not be contained.

This novel type of coronavirus now formally named by the World Health Organisation as “SARS-CoV2” is, as you are undoubtedly aware, much more contagious than other viral diseases because there is no pre-existing immunity in the population as a whole. The UK's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has said that the worst case infection rate could be as high as 80% (the theoretical point where the spread of any virus is self-limiting) but he emphasised that the figure for the UK was likely to be very much lower.

There is a general consensus amongst epidemiologists that for the UK the minimum infection rate will be around 25%. However, whatever the infection rate, this will be spread over a fairly lengthy period so that the percentage of people affected at any one time will be much smaller. This is a key factor informing the Government’s strategy for mitigating the impact of Covid-19 infections from both the public health and economic perspectives. The current estimates for case fatality rate (CFR) for Covid-19 vary widely (especially from country to country) but the best estimate for CFR for the UK is 1 to 2%. For seasonal flu in the UK, the CFR is estimated to be well below 1%.

A lot of these statistics will be subject to significant revision over the coming months as scientists are better able to test for, and ultimately track, the progress of the virus entering different countries. As a result, over the coming weeks and months, we will edit this page so that it contains the most up-to-date information from credible sources, such as the WHO, PHE, or the BBC. We will also endeavour to provide Small and Medium-Sized Businesses with helpful links, along with any hints or tips we can offer based on our conversations with clients and suppliers and our own experience within our own business.

Communication to your teams

Stories from online tabloids and social media (which rely on clicks and shares) will prey on peoples’ worst fears. It will be important that businesses prepare, but do not indulge in knee-jerk reactions that aren’t based on scientific advice or common sense.

Now should be the time to start discussing at a senior management level what steps need to be taken to limit employee exposure in the case of a local breakout and to review your Business Continuity (BC) plan. Decide what short-term steps need to be taken to minimise risk and improve hygiene within the business and then communicate these changes to your team.

By addressing the issue directly, you’ll reassure anyone who may be inclined to panic that the risk of infection can be minimised in the workplace, while reminding those who are the polar opposite (“it’ll never happen to me”) that they must take the threat of infection seriously.

Pandemic Response Plan (PRP)

There are lots of factors that may slow down the spread of Covid-19 over the coming months, but realistically it is only a matter of time before it affects all parts of the UK. As such you should start considering some worst case scenarios and how you can mitigate them in the short to medium term. Some questions you may want ask yourself include:

  • What will we do if a staff member is diagnosed with Covid-19?
  • Do we have the capacity / capability to enable remote work from home – if not, what is the fallback position of the company?
  • Which critical suppliers may be disproportionately affected by Covid-19?
  • Are there any clients that may be at risk because of the outbreak?

Depending on the answer to some of these questions you should draw up a list of actions and delegate accordingly. For example, whoever is in charge of procurement should speak to critical suppliers and ask how their lead times and stock may have been affected recently. What kind of Business Continuity plans have they put in place?

If remote working is an option for your team you should ensure everyone can access emails and files from home. The best way to test this is to send your staff home early one afternoon (not a Friday) and monitor who is able to get online and continue to work remotely. Better to test these systems now, rather than after someone becomes infected and the whole company is sent home for up to two weeks.

If you haven’t already got a video conferencing account setup, check out our guide to free remote working services, that have been made available by companies like Zoom, Google, and Microsoft.

What is 4D doing?

Our number one priority is ensuring the health and safety of our clients and staff, as a result we have implemented the following effective and non-disruptive hygiene policies at all of our Data Centres (DCs):

  • Increased Cleanliness - upon arrival all team members and visitors will be asked to wash their hands, or use sanitiser provided. We have also implemented a daytime cleaning schedule that focuses on frequently used surfaces, including all communal workstations/ KVM trollies and resources have cleaning products next to them – to be used before and after each use.
  • Hygienic change to welcome procedures - Until further notice, we will suspend physical acts of greeting, such as handshakes. Additionally, signing in will now be carried out by 4D Security and signatures will not be required. Our policies requiring government issued photographic identification, or registration on our biometric system, continue to be in place to maintain a robust security perimeter

Additionally 4D's Executive Team have put in place a comprehensive Pandemic Response Plan, meaning we will be providing our usual excellent service while being prepared to: 

  • Quickly communicate potential access restrictions to clients until a deep-clean can be completed
  • Reduce staffing to minimum levels at affected data centres and identify who must be on-site for continuity of services
  • Ensure sufficient resources are available on-site for team members in an outbreak scenario
  • Talk to critical suppliers about their PRP and draw up a list of secondary suppliers where necessary
  • Review and maintain guidance from Public Health England and the UK Government

Stay informed

As part of your Business Continuity planning it is important you regularly make yourself aware of the latest facts from reliable sources. Here are some links to sites that will provide impartial and well researched information on the Covid-19 outbreak:

Keep calm and carry on

So in summary, stay informed, keep calm and wash your hands regularly. We will continue to post updates on this page, to inform you of how we’re working to minimise the risk, keep our data centres online and – most importantly – keep our clients and staff safe.