South African companies implementing precautionary measures around Covid-19 spread

Companies are increasing sanitisation, restricting and monitoring travel, and encouraging remote working.

With the number of confirmed coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in South Africa increasing by the day, companies are starting to take precautionary steps to reduce the risks of the virus spreading farther. Hand sanitisers, regular sterilisation of high-touch areas and restrictions on travelling have become a requirement for every company across the country as fears escalate.  

Sanitisation

Capitec Bank, which is known for using biometrics in-branch, is in the process of issuing alcohol wipes to all branches and areas that use fingerprint biometrics. Fingerprint readers will be sanitised each time after use by a client. 

Nedbank has also implemented sanitising regulations. Chief risk officer Trevor Adams says: 

“As a precaution, Nedbank is providing cleaning and disinfecting supplies to all our offices and branches and have deep-cleaned and sanitised most of our high-traffic operations in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng and have deployed cleaning professionals to our remaining regions.” 

He adds that the deep cleaning and maintenance cleaning products are used in hospitals and ICU. “The deep clean kills pathogens or bacteria in the air and on surfaces and the building is safe for occupation 15 to 20 minutes after it has been applied and is also safe for pregnant women.” 

While Standard Bank branches remain open, workers and customers are encouraged to use alcohol sanitisers, soap, and water to keep clean and to not touch their faces. 

According to FNB chief risk officer Lytania Johnson, the bank has increased the frequency of cleaning its premises and also ensured that, where relevant, the respective environments undergo deep cleaning. “Furthermore, most of our campuses are equipped with hand sanitisers, and this will be rolled out to our branches as a precautionary measure.” 

Travelling

Old Mutual chief information officer and member of the OML Covid-19 committee Johnson Idesoh said in a statement that, as a responsible business and one of the largest employers on the continent, Old Mutual takes the wellbeing of its employees, customers and business partners very seriously.

“We believe the continuing spread of Covid-19 across the world poses a real risk to everyone’s health. To limit exposure and help contain the outbreak, we have taken the decision to halt all but business-critical international travel, including to and from other African countries. The same applies to domestic travel.” 

Old Mutual also urges its employees to make greater use of alternatives such as video conferencing to avoid travel. The company has also introduced travel screening in its main buildings, asking visitors to complete travel declarations to identify those who have flown from high-risk regions or countries in the past 14 days. Employees who have recently travelled are required to wait 21 days before entering any of the Old Mutual buildings. 

Those who are visiting from other countries are also required to provide a medical certificate confirming that they are asymptomatic before visiting any Old Mutual offices.

Old Mutual confirmed that, during the tracking process, one of its employees had tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from abroad. The employee has been told not to return to the office for the 21-day period, in line with the new travel policy. The employee is currently undergoing the necessary medical treatment. 

Standard Bank has also taken the decision to suspend all cross-border travel on business until further notice. In a statement, the company said that, in Africa, people will only be allowed to travel on Standard Bank Group business if, and only if, specifically permitted to do so in writing by both the CEO of the origin country business and the CEO of the destination country business. 

Nedbank has also restricted travel to impacted countries and high-risk areas, and regional and domestic travel has been restricted to essential travel. The bank will also be monitoring and tracking employees travelling in their personal capacity. 

“The use of Skype, video and teleconferencing is encouraged and where employees need to have face to face meetings, they are encouraged to take precautionary measures by practising good hygiene,” Trevor said.

Working from home

Standard Bank plans to ensure that business continues by allowing and enabling employees to work from other locations or home. 

FNB has already adopted flexible working arrangements in most areas of its business and continues to reinforce the adoption of remote working arrangements. 

SAP South Africa announced that it took a decision to close its Sandton office on Monday and Tuesday (9 and 10 March) after becoming aware that two of its employees had come into contact with the second person who was confirmed to be infected. SAP emphasises that it does not have a confirmed case of coronavirus, but it's just taking precautionary steps.

The company said in a statement that both employees are well, but have taken immediate precautions by entering a period of quarantine while awaiting test results. Johannesburg-based employees were required to work remotely during this time while conducting all their day-to-day meetings virtually.

Read more: How CFOs are preparing for the impact of coronavirus in South Africa