How and why we need to prepare for a second wave

As of Monday 13th, many of the remaining businesses yet to reopen after the Government-enforced lockdown, fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic, once again invited customers back into their premises.

The last remaining restricted businesses – indoor pools, gyms and leisure facilities – will finally open their doors to customers on the 25th after months of inactivity.

Whilst strict guidance is currently in place for all businesses to ensure the safety of workers and customers, many leaders are questioning if the move was made too soon.

Localised lockdowns have already been put in place across areas such as Leicester, with more looking likely over the coming weeks. Data published by Sky News shows a total of 36 other areas in the UK currently under threat of having to return to a lockdown, with Bradford, Barnsley and Rochdale nearing critical levels of infection.

And with evidence from Public Health England showing that the virus thrives in colder conditions, analysts such as the Academy of Medical Sciences are looking to the possibilities of a devastating second wave coming to the UK in winter.

A report carried out by the Academy of Medical Sciences, at the request of the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, suggests that hospitals could potentially see around 120,000 COVID-19 deaths in between this September and next June, at the same time as battling a surge in demand due to usual winter pressures such as the flu.

The report, from 37 scientists and academics, acknowledges there is a high degree of uncertainty about how the Covid-19 epidemic will evolve in the UK over the coming months.

As such, Nick Wilson, Director of Health & Safety Services at Ellis Whittam, states that now is the time for businesses to consider how they would navigate a second wave, and to start preparing accordingly. “We may be lulled into a false sense of security and believe that the worst is behind us. However, with the uncertainty that still surrounds this virus, now is not the time to become complacent,” Wilson said.

“Now is the time to look at developing or reviewing the business continuity plan or, as a bare minimum, ask yourself ‘what are we going to do and how are we going to achieve this?’. A robust health and safety management system should ensure appropriate arrangements are in place to identify and protect employees from foreseeable risks and that includes planning for all eventualities especially those that may have a catastrophic impact on business operations,” he added.

What is a business continuity plan?

“A business continuity plan is a key document in helping a business going and meeting its critical functions while it is in a state of flux, until normal or new normal operating conditions can be achieved. The plan should provide the information needed to help assess and then act should an incident happen,” Wilson explained.

“Invoking the plan then starts the agreed and tested recovery strategy. Some companies rent empty office space and have it on standby; some have dual data centres with applications replicating data to servers in another location. The solution depends on the business’s requirements and the budget you have/wish to spend on it.

We know that it’s very likely some areas of the country are going to be affected by localised lockdowns, so use this time to prepare. Think about how you responded before, what you have learnt from the experience, to help you forward plan with how you and your business will cope with another potential lockdown.

The source for this article was originally featured in HR Grapevine here.

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