Johannesburg, 16 Mar 2020
As a company, we have taken a policy decision to provide our employees with sanitisers, and if any of our employees show symptoms of the coronavirus, we will fund their testing. In addition to that, we are encouraging our employees to work from home, and to use sanitiser that the company will provide to them. In the past two weeks, when about 10 South Africans went to Italy for the holiday, and returned, we have seen the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa.
Everyone is talking about what the government must do to control the spread of the virus and no one is speaking about what the private companies and their leadership must do to assist in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
At TechnoChange Solutions, we are leading by example. Obviously, as an SME, we have a small team and we area a small company, so it is easy to do what we are proposing as measures to at least protect our employees and assist them where possible to avoid being infected, but bigger private companies have bigger budgets and therefore can assist – but the leadership of the companies must take a lead with this. Without them clearly coming out to say, as leaders of companies and industries we are prepared to work with the government and to support our employees during this difficult time, nothing will happen, and the coronavirus will spread faster.
We have seen in the news that the costs of private screening and diagnostic testing could be up to R1 400 in South Africa, and we cannot take for granted that everyone, when they get the symptoms, will have that kind of money – even people who are working. And we believe that is not the only cost; there are other unknown costs to this. Therefore, to encourage people with symptoms to go for the test and in other ways to control and stop the spread of the virus as private sector companies, we need to support and assist our employees with the COVID-19 testing.
There has not been a very clear message from the medical aids as to whether they will support and fully fund the testing and/or the treatment of their members who test positive for the virus. Therefore, companies have to be prepared and this means proactive action is necessary for the leadership and management of companies to ensure they play their role at least within their environments, and what they can control and manage – their businesses and companies.
So, we are calling on all CEOs, boards, managements and shareholders of companies to ensure:
- Their companies come up with urgent and emergency coronavirus policies that will ensure they have a plan on how to handle the virus in case their employees are infected or their companies have more positive cases.
- All their corporate buildings have sanitisers and all people coming in and out of their corporate offices are required to use those sanitisers.
- They provide sanitisers to their employees to take home, and use whenever it is necessary.
- They come up with the coronavirus awareness campaigns where pamphlets are visible on their walls to warn their employees of what to do when they think they have been in contact with someone who tested positive and who within the company must be contacted when such a situation arises. This specific safety personnel can then engage with authorities if the emergency situation happens.
- Companies must fund the test for the employees who are suspected to be infected or had contact with someone who tested positive, as indicated earlier, there has not been any media statement from the medical aids as to what is their plan around ensuring that members can claim fully for the test. Until that is clear, companies must put an emergency fund aside to assist employees to do the test.
- Companies must have in stock coronavirus emergency kits: this will include the protective overalls, masks, where someone like the cleaner can clean and sanitise the company premises if someone who has tested positive has been suspected of having been at the company, without them risking infection.
According to the WHO, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, fatigue and a dry cough. WHO says some patients may experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. Current estimates of the incubation period, the amount of time between infection and the onset of symptoms – range from one to 14 days. Most infected people show symptoms within five to six days. However, infected patients can also be asymptomatic, not displaying symptoms despite having the virus in their system.The elderly, and those with underlying medical problems, such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. This is according to WHO.
“We believe it still remains the constitutional duty of the government to ensure that it controls pandemic types of diseases, and it protects its citizens from the virus through travel bans or quarantines and other necessary measures. However, as leaders of industry and as private sector companies big or small, we must play our role in ensuring that our economy is not grounded by the disease. We have to play our part in whatever small way possible to ensure that the disease is controlled and eventually eliminated,” says Nkosana Mbokane, CEO of TechnoChange Solutions.
With that said, we see many countries around the world are closing borders, putting individuals from highly affected countries who visit their countries under very strict quarantine and putting citizens under lockdown in a bid to contain the rapid spread of the new coronavirus outbreak, labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO's declaration has increased pressure on governments to ramp up their response, sparking emergency action plans and upending life around the globe.
“Unfortunately, WHO has not extended this call to private sector companies. As TechnoChange Solutions, we call on our peers in the private sector to come up with plans and not only depend on or expect government to halt the spread of this virus. Some companies are going to become ground zero for this disease, if we, as CEOs and leaders of our businesses, are not coming up with company-specific plans on how we will control and prevent this from shutting down business and the economy. The call from our company is for private sector businesses to do their part of protecting their business through the protection and support of their employees; as a result, this will protect our economy,” concludes Mbokane.