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Firms should 'be prepared for different scenarios' involving Wuhan virus: ESG

BUSINESSES should "be prepared for different scenarios" involving the Wuhan coronavirus, even though the current situation in Singapore is stable with no signs of community spread, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) said in an advisory on Wednesday.

"We recommend businesses to start developing business continuity plans if you have not done so," said ESG. Supported by the Singapore Business Federation, ESG is preparing a business continuity guide to which firms can refer when developing such plans.

The guide, which will be available soon on ESG's website, will serve as a general reference in planning for a pandemic caused by influenza and other respiratory infections. It will recommend actions that firms can take at each alert level, as determined by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

"We will continue to monitor developments and work closely with partners – businesses, the trade associations and chambers, and unions – to support businesses and workers," said ESG.

The ESG's advisory also covered issues regarding business travel and employees, as detailed in advisories by the MOH and Ministry of Manpower. Firms are advised to defer all non-essential travel by employees to mainland China, and avoid all travel to Hubei province, where the outbreak originated. Firms should also check the MOH website for latest updates "before making a considered decision on whether to proceed with business travel plans".

Employees should make health and travel declarations regarding recent or upcoming travel to China, and firms should closely monitor the health conditions of employees returning from China for 14 days upon their return to Singapore.

During this monitoring period, firms can consider flexible work arrangements to allow employees to work from home, such as telecommuting and teleconferencing, said ESG.

If employees cannot work remotely, firms can consider options such as providing paid leave of absence, even if travel was not work-related; allowing employees to apply for annual leave or no-pay leave; or treating leave of absence as sick leave.

Employees who are served with quarantine orders will be deemed to be on paid sick leave, with their absence from work treated as paid hospitalisation leave.

Firms should remind all employees returning to Singapore - from any overseas location - to monitor their health closely. If they are unwell, they should see a doctor promptly and inform the doctor of their travel history, as well as wearing a mask and calling the clinic ahead of their visit if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

In general, employees should be reminded to stay vigilant, adopt good personal hygiene practices, and take general health precautions such as avoiding live animals.

ESG also directed firms to a list of advisories compiled by the MOH for specific sectors such as early childhood education and tourism.