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Wuhan virus outbreak: Singapore company associations step up precautionary measures

An official wearing a mask waits upon arrival of a flight from Hangzhou, China at Changi Airport, Singapore January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Yiming Woo

SINGAPORE — Local company associations have been stepping up efforts to advise their members on precautionary health measures amid a rise in the number of confirmed cases of the Wuhan novel coronavirus around the world including Singapore. 

Among the measures, the associations have been sending out advisories to thousands of member companies in recent days, urging them to do their part to curb the spread of the outbreak. One association plans to hold more sessions of a regular health workshop.

The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), which has around 10,000 members, sent out guidelines to members about the health and travel measures that they are encouraged to take. 

The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) has emailed all 5,000 employers under its contact list, advising them on various ways to protect the health of employees. 

Similarly, the Singapore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) has updated more than 1,500 members about the situation in Wuhan. 

One of the messages from the associations to the companies is the need for a contingency plan for alternative work processes to ensure business continuity.

In the guidelines disseminated to its members, ASME said, “Instead of having meetings in-person, SMEs can conduct teleconferencing to minimise physical human contact and interaction. SMEs could divide operational groups into two or more teams.”

Meanwhile, SNEF said it will increase the frequency of its ongoing three-hour workshop on the prevention of infectious diseases in the workplace. The workshop, typically held once or twice a month, is targeted at human resource practitioners as well as safety and health facilitators.

In response to media enquiries, the association said, “SNEF has stepped up the runs to three-four times in the coming months. The workshops aim to increase the awareness of workplace infectious disease including viruses as well as the precautionary measures to take at various levels of alerts.”

As a precautionary measure, SCCI cancelled a networking session originally scheduled on Friday (24 January), the eve of Chinese New Year. 

For future events, SCCI members have to register with full contact details “to facilitate tracing if needed”. SCCI said it will also be playing a health advisory video at its upcoming events to advise members about the outbreak.

The measures come as the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Thursday and Friday the first three confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus in Singapore.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said there is “no need to panic” in Singapore as the country is "much better prepared" to cope with the Wuhan outbreak since it experienced the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003.

Lee was speaking at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland prior to the MOH confirming the first case of the Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore.

ASME President Kurt Wee echoed the sentiment, saying the lessons from the SARS event are “very applicable” to the current Wuhan outbreak.

Wee said, “Singapore companies will still remember the SARS event and we will apply the lessons of SARS to be able to respond readily and competently to the Wuhan situation right now.”

The latest confirmed cases of the Wuhan novel coronavirus outbreak. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

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