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COVID-19 Early Outbreak Management – Could your business be dealing with a crisis sooner than you think?

11 August 2020
Public Health England ('PHE') has published a series of action cards providing step by step guidance to help businesses quickly identify, report and respond to any potential COVID-19 outbreak. An outbreak is deemed to be when one or more confirmed cases of coronavirus occur in a business; a threshold much lower than many businesses may have initially thought.

PHE Action Cards

The action cards cover several different business and local community settings (i.e. workplace, residential and small & large gatherings) and they also cover a range of sectors (e.g. food & drink, industrial workplaces, recreation & leisure and consumer workplaces). It is expected that more action cards will be published as further coronavirus restrictions lift.

Government guidance states that the action cards are to be used when one or more confirmed cases of coronavirus occur in a business. Depending on the type of organisation the business is, this may also include 'possible' cases of COVID-19 where someone has coronavirus symptoms but coronavirus has not been confirmed through testing. It is not clear from the guidance which organisations would have to act on 'possible' cases of COVID-19.


Reporting an Outbreak

If a business has been informed of more than one confirmed case of COVID-19, with symptoms dating within 14 days of each other, the business should report the outbreak to their local Public Health England Health Protection Team ('PHE HPT') for help and advice.  

The PHE HPT will work with businesses to assess the risks and identify the most appropriate actions to take. Such actions may include enhanced hygiene, hand washing and cleaning regime, use of personal protective equipment, increased staff and visitors' awareness and adherence to preventative measures, and enhanced testing and tracing. An outbreak control team may also be established to help manage the situation.


Crisis Response – how we can help

By advising businesses to report an outbreak when more than one case of coronavirus has been confirmed, the recent government guidance has arguably created a low threshold for what constitutes an 'outbreak'. Businesses may now need to report an outbreak much sooner than they had previously thought. 

Reporting an outbreak of coronavirus has various implications for a business; not only will businesses need to act fast and take action to ensure the safety of their staff and the public, but they will also have to deal with communicating the outbreak to their workforce and stakeholder management, assess potential reputational risks, and consider handling the media.  

In the event of such a crisis, it is essential to have professional support. DWF's Crisis Response service provides specialist, professional advice based on years of experience of responding to crises. We can help you manage your COVID-19 crisis at every step to in order to protect your business and its reputation during these unprecedented times.  

If you would like any further information, please get in touch with one of the contacts below.

Further Reading