What you should know about Coronavirus

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of airborne viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, the virus causes respiratory infections.

The new coronavirus is thought to have emerged from illegally traded wildlife at a market in the city of Wuhan and can now spread between people.

How does it spread?

The virus can be spread by being in close contact with an infected person, and by coughing and sneezing, just like the common cold.

What are the symptoms?

  • Cough
  • High Temperature
  • Difficulty breathing

What if a guest displays symptoms?

If a guest appears to exhibit symptoms the General Manager should be notified immediately. Where possible determine if the guest in the 14 days before the onset of illness has either travelled to China, Iran, Italy or has been in contact with a confirmed case.

If this is the case you must immediately:

  1. Notify your line Manager
  2. Contact your local Health Protection Agency/Team for further advice
    • England (https://www.gov.uk/health-protection-team)
    • Scotland (https://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/)
    • Wales (https://www.publichealthwales.wales.nhs.uk/)
    • Ireland (https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/)

If you operate a hotel, the guest should be advised to remain in their room and prompt medical treatment arranged.   Arrangements should be made for them and their family, to have their meals in their room.

We would advise communication to future guests to inform them of any restrictions during their stay and to request them to postpone a visit if they are having symptoms, particularly if they are respiratory-related.

What is the current situation?

As of 31st January, the number of total confirmed cases in China is 9692 with 213 confirmed deaths.  Many who have died appear to have had pre-existing health conditions.

Based on the World Health Organisation’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate. This permits the government to plan for all eventualities. The risk to individuals in the UK has not changed at this stage.

UPDATE 10/03/20: Coronavirus has infected over 113,000 people and killed over 4,000 people globally.

The EU has raised the coronavirus risk in member states to “moderate to high”.

Find a live update on the COVID-19 situation here.

What is being done to prevent the spread of the infection?

Internationally there are strict travel restrictions in place to and from China, anyone displaying symptoms on arrival at airports will be quarantined. Face masks are mandatory in many public places, with schools and universities closed across the world.

UPDATE 10/03/20: Italy has banned all but essential travel, and there are strict restrictions across Europe.

We would recommend daily business continuity coronavirus meetings, and regular observation of the Public Health England updates (typically after 2pm).

For hotels and other hospitality businesses, work with procurement to ensure that you have an abundance of soap and sanitiser as customers will be washing their hands more than usual. There is also a high risk that these items will be stolen. 

What do I need to do to prevent spread?

  • Ensure your business maintains its usually high standards of cleanliness.
  • Ensure colleagues maintain high standards of hand and respiratory hygiene.
  • Ensure Food Safety Management System is being followed
  • Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
  • Managing and controlling guest’s personal hygiene is, of course, more challenging, it is recommended that hand sanitiser gel and tissues are available on reception desks for guest use.

Can I accept food and products from China?

Yes, although Coronviruses are zoonotic (can spread between animal and human) the current outbreak is human to human transmission.  There are currently no restrictions on international trade movements.

Only use/purchase food and products from nominated/approved suppliers.

There are ongoing investigations into this virus and this is a rapidly evolving situation, so monitor the Public Health England website for updates and further advice. If you are a customer and need advice, please call the Helpline service or your account manager.


As the situation with coronavirus has developed, we would encourage businesses to consider some of the following efforts in order to contain the spread of infection

Are your current policies still applicable?

Review standard policies to see if they need to be temporarily reconsidered, for example, trading with no hot water for up to 4 hours may be an issue during the outbreak. 

Have you got a home working contingency plan?

In order to minimise business disruption and protect staff, a home working contingency plan is essential. Can you minimise staff risks with a work from home policy? It is also worth bearing in mind that if schools are shut, staff will need to return home to take care of children. 

Keep an eye on team wellbeing during this time. Staff wellbeing is paramount, particularly if they have to self isolate. Away from the office, without the normal support network, can make a stressful situation worse.

Have a policy to check in with your team, particularly if you know they are vulnerable. Use tech to communicate with your team and keep a social element to the workplace.

How are you tracking the movements of your team?

Set a precedent about transparency when it comes to this virus. Make sure to emphasise that staff must alert the company if they are feeling unwell, or have come into close contact with anyone from a high-risk area. Stress-test your rota, and ensure that you can access valuable information if needed. For example, when establishing who a suspected case has been in contact with.

For Shield Safety Group clients: 

Our staff are on hand to give advice and support if you have a potential coronavirus case. 

Use the announcement section on our Compliance Centre to communicate and check in on the wider team, or chat to Shield staff.

All audits will be taking place as usual, but we are reviewing the situation daily and will update this blog with our latest position, as well as informing customers if they are going to be affected. 

For any further guidance on Coronavirus-19 please contact our Helpline on 020 3740 3749. They will be able to respond to you.

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John Brennan

Blogs, covid-19, Health & Safety, News & events

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