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Coronavirus: Keep Calm and Carry on

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In this week's column, Robert Lloyd Griffiths, Director of IOD Wales, reflects on what we can all do to mitigate the impact of coronavirus.

 

 


World governments and central banks are taking action to ease the impact of the outbreak of coronavirus, but what are we all doing as business leaders and owners to minimise the spread here in Wales?

Clearly, the main emphasis for all should be on containing and mitigating the COVID-19 disease itself. But the economic impacts have the potential to be significant, and we need to do all that we can to understand and react as events continue to rapidly unfold. We then need to learn lessons accordingly and adapt our business continuity plans as needed.

The news that Flybe has collapsed into administration, sadly putting 2,000 jobs at risk and sparking fears for the future of some regional airports, came as a stark reminder of how demand for air travel is falling as a result of the virus. Indeed, Exeter-based Flybe said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on demand for air travel was partly to blame.

We are facing a very challenging and unsettling period with the possible threat of school closures and restrictions on the use of public transport. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy here, which is why each of these measures has the potential to have an impact on our economy as working parents struggle with childcare, more people are told to self-isolate and many struggle to get to work due to a lack of transport. We should also be very mindful of the likely impact on our tourism sector with the stopping of big events and restrictions on travel.

The financial crisis of 2008 taught us that an economic downturn takes time to reverse. That’s why we have to keep calm and work together to make sure that we aren’t faced with a stagnation in growth, falling stock markets, a slow-down in factory production, or a drop in customer demand.

Resilience is one of our key strengths in Wales.

We’re good at making the best of difficult situations, at getting on with the job in-hand and staying focused on the small things that actually make a big difference.

And it’s those small practical steps that really will help. At the IoD, we’re asking our colleagues and members to avoid physical contact in meetings and at events. This is perhaps alien to many of us in Wales as a nation that prides itself on being warm and friendly, but the introduction of a ‘no shaking hands meeting etiquette' is a positive and proactive measure to helping to avoid the spread of the disease.

Of course, as the impact of coronavirus is felt by businesses around the world, it is important that we all have access to the right information so that we can make informed decisions. It’s reassuring to know that the UK Government and Welsh Government are working together to publish guidance for employers, and help is available to develop effective business continuity and disaster recovery plans to minimise the potential effects of a pandemic.

In the meantime, let’s stay calm and carry on with what we do best; just get on with it.