As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread globally, IBC’s Finance & Strategy Director Kishor Harsiani is urging the merchant industry to take sensible precautions to protect its workforce, while minimising its impact on business, the economy and the industry’s output.
Countries battling to prevent, or at least delay, the spread of the coronavirus are implementing travel bans, while thousands of people in the most affected areas are being asked to self-quarantine for at least two weeks. This is expected to have a significant impact on the global supply chain, with raw material shortages already being reported and manufacturing production levels falling.
In China, the world’s second largest economy, manufacturing production has fallen to record lows, causing global markets to fall 11% last week in the worst period for stocks since the 2008 financial crash.
International trade fairs including Mostra Convegno in Italy, and the Chinese CIFF and CIFM Interzum events have all been postponed, while the UK Timber Trade Federation has described the coronavirus outbreak as ‘a source of pessimism for timber exporters’.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the spread of coronavirus is “likely”, according to the BBC, but that the UK is well prepared to tackle any widespread outbreak.
Harsiani said: “The coronavirus outbreak is absolutely a cause for concern, but it is important for the builders’ merchant industry to take sensible precautions as the UK prepares. For merchants and distributors, this means keeping in close touch with suppliers and keeping informed of any supply chain issues so that decisions can be made early.
“The mainstream media is reporting that the virus is highly infectious, but it’s also important to remember that, for most people affected, it is proving to be a mild infection similar to flu or a severe cold. For those people who experience more severe symptoms, the majority are elderly or have pre-existing health conditions.
“While we all need to take precautions to protect ourselves, and each other, from any risk of infection, widespread panic can be just as devastating, and risks destabilising the economy and flooding the already stretched NHS with false potential cases.”
Harsiani is advising all builders’ merchants and suppliers in the UK to continue work as per usual, but to proceed with caution, and to put in place facilities to help their workers protect themselves, such as antibacterial handwashes for workers and be mindful about large gatherings.
Only those employees who have recently travelled to certain affected areas of the world, including the Hubei province in China, Iran, those areas of northern Italy that are in lockdown, or certain parts of South Korea, should contact NHS 111 to be tested, and should consider self-isolation for 14 days after their return.
More information on the spread of Coronavirus, and the latest statistics can be found online at https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/