Dear Members and Colleagues
During the past 10 days or so, South Africa joined over 70 countries in reporting cases of COVID-19.
COVID-19, as it has been termed by the WHO (World Health Organization) is having significant Public Health & Economic consequences globally and is a complex issue that BUSA is carefully monitoring. The virus was declared an epidemic by WHO on 11 March 2020. The purpose of this communication is to advise our members of some of the actions we’re taking as South Africa’s Apex Business organization.
1. ABOUT COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus)
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province in China at the end of December 2019. The virus has spread throughout China and other countries, with China, South Korea, Italy and Iran being amongst the most impacted countries. It is encouraging to note that reported cases in China, the epicenter of the global health emergency, have declined sharply in the past 2 weeks, indicating that containment measures, if successfully executed, are effective.
2. HOW DOES IT PRESENT?
Symptoms are like those of seasonal flu, including fever, shortness of breath and a characteristic dry cough. Should member employees or patients present with suspected symptoms, it is advised that you seek immediate medical attention and cease working from your center, and only return to the workplace if medically advised to do so.
3. HOW IS THE VIRUS TRANSMITTED?
COVID-19 is a contagious virus and spreads at 1.5 to 2 times the rate of seasonal flu. It is spread through: • The air by coughing and sneezing • Close personal contact such as shaking hands • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing or sanitizing your hands.
4. HOW DANGEROUS IS THE VIRUS?
In most instances the virus presents as a mild to moderate condition, with most patients recovering in the normal course without complication. In those countries
that it has presented thus far, a small group of so called “vulnerable” patients i.e. those with compromised immune systems, the elderly and those with other underlying conditions, may develop secondary infections and other complications.
5. FACTS ABOUT THE VIRUS AND SHOULD WE BE PANICKING?
Thus far, in the 3.5months since the first reported case, approximately 120 000 people have been infected, out of a global population of over 7 billion. There have been approximately 4 000 deaths, which is a mortality rate of approximately 3%, mainly in the elderly, vulnerable category described above. At last count, there were 7 reported cases in our country, all imported cases as these patients acquired the infection whilst still abroad and then travelled into South Africa. At this point, given the low level of incidence in our country, there is no need to panic and the best approach is for Companies and their employees to follow the basic measures to avoid contracting the virus. Containment is the best way of dealing with this public health crisis. This will also contribute to enabling an earlier economic recovery.
6. HOW TO MINIMIZE THE INFECTION RISK?
• Wash your hands frequently with an alcohol – based hand sanitizer or soap. • Avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when you sneeze or cough. • Avoid handshakes • Ensure surfaces are kept clean • Follow various travel guidance notices
7. AIR TRAVEL
South Africa has not yet instituted any travel bans or restriction of foreigners visiting our country. Guests entering our Airports are tested. Whilst individual companies are following their own travel guidance, travel to high risk countries such as China and Italy is not recommended.
Employees who have returned from an area where COVID-19 is spreading should monitor their symptoms for 14 days and take their temperature twice a day.
8. WHAT IS BUSA DOING?
At its recent Board meeting, the BUSA Board resolved to act with urgency on the following: • Given the significant misinformation and fake news that exists on COVID19, to ensure we disseminate factual and accurate information, so that companies can take informed decisions. • Allay panic, which creates further market uncertainty
• Work closely with National Department of Health to support the distribution of Key messaging and factual information. • Encourage member companies and organizations to help distribute and/or place NDOH messages and posters up in their companies, workstations etc.
To this end, the NDOH has made available very useful material, specifically developed for the workplace, which member companies can use to put up and distribute to employees.
This can be accessed from the following shared link.
We encourage you to use this immediately, as it is an important and critical element to successfully contain the virus and ensure public health facilities and help lines are not unnecessarily clogged up.
• We will be meeting with the Minister of Health and his team, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the SA WHO Representative next week to see how we can further collaborate to contain the outbreak • We are in contact with our member companies / organizations that supply critical goods and services such as Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices and will flag any concerns during this period whilst supply chains remain vulnerable. Given the high infection rates of HIV and TB in our country, potentially both vulnerable groups, ensuring the security of supply of HIV (ARV) and TB medicines is critical to preventing the domestic spread of the virus. At this point there are no Red flags. • We will continue to update members on an ongoing basis.
9. ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
BUSA remains vigilant around the Economic and Business risks that the virus presents to the South African Economy, particularly off the back of the recent disappointing last quarter GDP numbers. The COVID-19 outbreak could not have come at a worse time for both global and South African markets.
We are therefore of the view that in these difficult and complex times, opportunities present in particular for our country to use this crisis to develop further Policy certainty (that will hasten recovery and boost confidence), to fix our energy mix and to use vulnerable global supply chains to build further domestic capacity,
particularly in manufacturing, with a view to ensuring current and future strategic stockpiles when market uncertainties present.
Lastly, as we navigate this outbreak and its potential public health and economic impacts, we use this opportunity to call for leadership and ongoing vigilance to contain the outbreak, as the best way to ensure early economic recovery and mitigation of the Public Health impact, not least on our already overburdened health facilities.
Cas Coovadia Chief Executive Officer